3D Printing as Alternative for Conventional Production Methods

3D Printing as Alternative for Conventional Production Methods

Not long ago, 3D Printing was perceived as a technological novelty. Nowadays, 3D Printers are an integral part of machinery park of many companies and they are used as alternative to conventional production methods.

Until recently, most common industrial application of 3D Printing technology has been Rapid Prototyping of testing parts. Today, additive manufacturing supports small-lot production and fully functional components production. For many producers, 3D Printing has become an essential tool for enhancing the quality of production process, creating and testing new solutions and making assembly more efficient.

Additive technologies are most commonly used in previously mentioned Rapid Prototyping. Implementing 3D Printing technology in prototyping process and using soluble support materials allows the user to create shapes that would be very difficult or even impossible to achieve using conventional methods. Don-Plast , a manufacturer of decorative plastic articles, used for the design of houses, gardens and balconies is definitely worth mentioning here. As well as ABB the leader of technologies for power engineering, robotics and propulsion systems, industrial automation and power networks.

3D Printing technology creates vast possibilities of modeling complicated shapes with high precision and it’s become a subject of studies of scientists interested in using its potential in healthcare for instance. One of the largest technical universities in Slovakia – the Technical University of Košice (TUKE) together with ENBICORE company have been conducting studies into implementation of 3D Printing in the process of treating medical patients, their work has been supported by VSHAPER PRO. The University prints implant prototypes in PEEK.

3D Printing technology is well used in prototyping, especially when the product is yet to be presented to potential investors and manufacturers of its components. The founders of ISMO start-up (Interactive System for Medicine On-Line) have successfully tried out the VSHAPER for their 3D Printing.

Another interesting example of how 3D Printing is used in prototyping is a producer of glass packaging – CP Glass. Before the production process begins, R&D Department in cooperation with Sales Department develop new packaging designs. Plastic modeling made by cutting is more often than not being replaced by 3D Printing with ABS and PA. 3D Printing allows the company to quickly model new geometrically faithful shapes of bottles while maintaining their quality. Working with the VSHAPER team, CP Glass have developed a method for printing ABS and PA models to produce prints with distinctive transparency in white, green and brown. Printed models also undergo resin processing.

CP Glass is a perfect example of a producer that uses 3D Printing also for Rapid Tooling. The company uses VSHAPER 270 Double in the production of unusual spare parts, especially when they are no longer available, the cost of purchasing is too high, or the lead time for parts used on the production line is too long.

It is noticeable that the use of 3D Printing technology for prototyping is now becoming an alternative for conventional technologies of tool and equipment manufacturing. In the era of precise 3D Printers and wide range of available materials Rapid Tooling plays an important role in dynamically developing companies for instance in automotive industry. PZL Sędziszów S.A. – a producer of all types of filters is definitely worth mentioning here.

3D Printing used for Rapid Prototyping and Rapid Tooling is also implemented in small lot production, especially when traditional production methods using injection molding are not cost-effective or increase the price of end product significantly. Thanks to additive technology and using it as Rapid Manufacturing we can in a quick and cost-effective way create a small series which is ready to use or sell. 3D Printers can easily be used for producing elements which constitute an important element of end product, but are no longer available to purchase.

BORG Automotive is a perfect example of a company that uses 3D Printing for such purposes. The company are specialists in sales, production and distribution in the auto aftermarket. The company’s domain is remanufacturing alternators, starters, A/C compressors, brake calipers to all popular car makes, as well as agricultural and construction machines. BORG Automotive uses 3D Printers to produce components made of synthetic materials no longer available to purchase. The main feature of elements created in high temperature print technology is elevated thermal and mechanical endurance. Contracting out the production of such components requires complex logistic procedures and is too costly and time-consuming.

To sum up – The industrial world has been striving to substitute commonly used metals with high quality polymer and composite materials. Three-dimensional prints are characterized by high endurance to stretching or bending and shock loading. They are often used as alternatives to elements made of iron, lead or titanium at the same time becoming an important support for production processes.

The article is based on a presentation made during TCT Show 2017 in Birmingham by Liam Monte from AM3D, authorised distributor of VSHAPER solutions.

Liam Monte
AM3D Director

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