Why are some engineers so hesitant to use 3D printing for more than just development?
Engineers are hardwired and trained to make calculated decisions based on facts. Traditional manufacturing processes such as casting and molding have been around a very, very long time—since the Bronze Age—and time has perfected these processes and brought them to what they are today. Both industry experts and novices alike can benefit from hundreds of years of this process evolution. 3D printing processes are relatively new, especially when compared to casting or injection molding.
Motor mounts are among a growing list of automotive parts that are now manufactured using commercial-grade 3D printing.
Modern, commercial-grade printing equipment and processes are capable of predictable results that will ease the mind of the most skeptical engineer. DMLS (direct metal laser sintering) can produce repeatable results for parts that can be manufactured in no other known method. Proto Labs’ 3DP facility is not only ISO 9001:2008, but also AS 9100. This is the supplemental requirement established by the aerospace industry to satisfy DOD, NASA, and FAA quality requirements. This certification should give any engineer a sense of security.
Understanding some basic quality parameters around the processes can help to lay a foundation of credibility. For example, limits are set to the number of times base material can be used, or only virgin powder could be specified. This is no different than controlling the amount of allowable regrind into a plastic injection-molded part.
Rolls-Royce is a notable automaker now using commercial-grade 3D printing for some production parts.
Testing parts to confirm material properties are extremely common in DMLS. Building a standard tensile bar with each build is a great way to confirm batches of production are producing the desired results. This way the first batch can have destructive testing on the tensile bar and parts to confirm the material and process are producing parts with the specified properties. The future batches can test the tensile bar for confirmation the predictable results were achieved.
The aerospace industry has been embracing advanced manufacturing methods for some time now and the automotive industry has also been making great strides in this area. For example, recent articles have been published around the Rolls-Royce Phantom’s printed parts and BMW’s leading spotin adopting printing technologies.
Brunswick Corp.’s Sea Ray luxury boat brand is known for its high-end, opulent yachts that often command seven-figure sales tags. As you might expect, no detail is considered too small, not even something as seemingly mundane as the air-conditioning drainage system on Sea Ray’s L650 Fly model (pictured).
So, when the boat builder redesigned its AC drain-line arrangement, and then extended that new design from the L650 Fly to two other Sea Ray models, the company created a significant supply challenge, which Proto Labs was called on to meet.
The grill was manufactured in a durable, corrosion-resistant ABS plastic at Proto Labs.
“Proto Labs was definitely able to help us more seamlessly go from prototype to production, which is important in our market, to be able to make that transition quickly,” said Randy Hasson, project leader with Brunswick’s recreational boat group in Merritt Island, Florida.
There’s still time to register for the webinar, “Accelerating Design Validation with Instant DFM and Pricing Feedback,” set for 3 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25. Jointly hosted by CAD software maker Autodesk, and Proto Labs, this free webinar shows you how to:
Reduce design risks with design for manufacturability (DFM) feedback
Slash weeks or months off your prototyping phase
Validate your designs early and often with DFM analysis and pricing feedback
Use a seamless system of CAD software and online quoting
Autodesk’s Fusion 360 CAD software has Proto Labs’ instant online quoting feature with DFM analysis integrated into its application. This session teaches you how these capabilities work together.
Conventional injection molding typically uses steel tooling capable of producing millions of parts, however, it often takes months to manufacture a mold and a capital investment of $50,000 or more. But what if production demands call for smaller quantities? That’s where aluminum tooling is ideal. Here’s a quick look at the differences between steel and aluminum tooling.
Low manufacturing costs with molds beginning around $1,500
Production quantities of up to 10,000 parts or more; depending on material type and geometry, some molds are capable of producing hundreds of thousands of parts
Simplified mold designs decrease manufacturing time and cost
Single and multi-cavity tooling: 1-, 2-, 4- and 8-cavity molds are possible depending on part size and complexity
Thermoplastic and thermoset materials identical to that of high-volume production materials; more than 100 different materials can be used including ABS, PC, PP, LCP, POM, and liquid silicone rubber
No maintenance fees and lifetime replacement of mold if damaged
Improved heat dissipation and without the need for messy cooling lines
Inexpensive mold-safe tooling modifications
High-Volume Production with Steel Tooling
Lower part cost when quantities increase
Part production in the millions
Multi-cavity tooling greater than 8 cavities
Part complexity can be increased
More finishing options
If you part volumes don’t stretch into the millions, if you need on-demand production parts within days, and if you’re looking to avoid risky tooling investments before your part design is truly validated, low-volume injection molding with an aluminum tool might be good option.
Once an aluminum mold is ready, part production begins almost immediately. This allows manufacturing to finish every order in three weeks or less.
At Proto Labs, we include a free interactive design for manufacturability (DFM) review within a few hours in every injection molding quote. In the time it takes to get the initial quote from a high-volume production molder, you can have several design reviews and a mold already in production.
The International Manufacturing Technology Show at Chicago’s McCormick Place is the largest manufacturing show in the Americas and will feature more than 2,000 exhibiting companies and over 114,000 registrants. Visit us at booth N-72 throughout the week. Proto Labs staffers are also presenting at the conference:
Jonathan Bissmeyer, Senior Quality Engineer: “Designing for the DMLS Process,” 1:15 p.m., Monday, Sept. 12, Room W192-B.
Greg Thompson, Global Product Manager: “Designing for Direct Metal Laser Sintering and Selective Laser Sintering,” 3:30 p.m., at the Additive Manufacturing Conference (co-located with IMTS).
At a recent trade show in New York, Proto Labs staffers found time for a photo. From left, Eric Utley, Jenna Nyman, Abby Christensen, Kory Dirnberger, and Charlie Johnson.
Medical Design & Manufacturing at Minneapolis’ Convention Center is the region’s largest medical technology event, with 5,000 industry professionals expected to attend. See us at booth 525.
As part of the show’s programming, Rich Baker, Proto Labs’ Chief Technology Officer, will present, “More Than Prototyping: Digital Manufacturing’s Role in Industry 4.0,” at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21. Baker also will participate in a panel discussion on “3D Printing: The Brave New World of Manufacturing” at 11 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 22.