3 Ways to Improve Operations with On-Demand Production

On-demand production of parts not only accelerates time to market, but reduces total cost of ownership since it eliminates the large capital expenses of traditional injection molding. Here are three ways on-demand production reduces your design risk, accelerates your product’s time to market, and saves you money along the way.

1. Bridge Tooling
Once you’ve finalized your product design, there’s often a gap between the end of product development and production. Leveraging rapid injection molding with cost effective, aluminum tooling can help you get to revenue more quickly while you wait for your production manufacturer to finalize steel tooling.

2. Supply Chain Emergencies
On-demand manufacturing provides a reliable alternative if global shipping delays or other disruptions in your supply chain arise—minimizing any potential loss of revenue. Further, products with high demand volatility can be more easily managed with on-demand manufacturing.

3. Low-Volume Production Runs
Before committing to large-volume production runs, validate your product design with low-volumes. Pilot runs can aid in testing assembly processes or gauging market demand. And, on-demand production is an economically viable solution for products with relatively low sales volumes—typically in the few thousands or hundreds of units.

Click to enlarge the on-demand manufacturing infographic:

The Short List is a regular compilation of quick tips, trends, and timely topics of interest.

A Cloud-Based Future for 3D CAD

3D CAD Design software is increasingly moving to cloud-based models, greatly benefitting product developers and manufacturers alike.

The tools available to designers have changed mightily over the last few decades. Long gone are drafting boards, replaced by progressively more intelligent software and cloud-based collaboration platforms. This new and improved design landscape offers designers, engineers, and OEMs lower development costs and faster time to market, and is an integral part of any digital manufacturing environment.

What’s new in computer-aided design (CAD)? Plenty. Pick any leading CAD software on the market today: Aside from greater intelligence, usability, mobility, and a plethora of cool features that were unavailable even a few years ago, virtually all providers offer or will soon offer cloud-based deployment for their customers.

Case in Point
One of these is PTC Inc., developers of the Creo design suite, WindChill PLM, and a range of other manufacturing software solutions. Paul Sagar, PTC’s vice president of product management, said his company will be offering cloud versions of many of its products by year end, and that moving to the cloud is a logical step for companies struggling with routine maintenance of large software deployments, or needing to invest in new hardware every few years. “High-end cloud solutions eliminate all that effort and expense, while still providing the power associated with on premise CAD installations,” he explained. That power is about to get much stronger as PTC and other CAD providers tighten their embrace of digital manufacturing. For example, ThingWorx, PTC’s industrial internet of things (IIoT) development platform, has been adopted by General Electric and others as part of an industry-wide push toward smarter shop floors, more connected CAD systems, and greater transparency throughout the supply chain.

“From a design perspective, the IIoT and digital manufacturing are going to significantly change the way we do things,” Sagar said. Currently, “we design products in a vacuum. We start with a basic set of requirements, collate whatever historical knowledge is available, and then make assumptions. Those assumptions might cost the business a lot of money.” Continue reading

Design Complex Components with Insert Molding

Low-volume injection molding isn’t limited to just simple parts. At Proto Labs, we have the ability to manufacture complicated parts using side-actions, hand-loaded inserts, overmolding, and have now started beta testing our insert molding process.

Instead of a mold that produces a final part using two separate shots like overmolding, insert molding generally consists of a preformed part—often metal—that is loaded into a mold, where it is then overmolded with plastic to create a part with improved functional or mechanical properties.

A threaded insert is placed atop a mold core where plastic is molded over it to form the final component.

Threaded Inserts
One way insert molding is leveraged is with threaded inserts, which reinforce the mechanical properties of plastic parts’ ability to be fastened together, especially over repeated assembly. Self-tapping screws work well with softer plastics, but they can become easily worn and/or cross threaded, and fail to perform well, which results in damaged parts that need to be replaced.

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3D Printing Design Fundamentals

Download “Design Essentials for 3D Printing”

3D printing opens up new design possibilities like hollow parts and complex organic geometries, but it’s still important to keep a few fundamentals in mind to take full advantage of 3D printing’s capabilities.

Understanding materials and processes as well as considerations like support structures and feature resolution are crucial for success. These design essentials will help you make the most out of your 3D-printed parts and accelerate your product development efforts.

In the following guide to 3D printing we focus on these topics:

  • 3D printing prototypes and fully functional, end-use parts
  • Designing for metal 3D printing
  • Comparing additive manufacturing processes
  • Material properties and selection

Click here to download Design Essentials for 3D Printing.

3D Printing’s Next Dimension? 7 Questions for Industry Experts

Rob Connelly

Patrick Dunne

A higher profile for industrial-grade 3D printing over the past decade has led to notable technology developments and potential new applications. The buzz over 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, has also created a lot of speculation in the trade press about whether this technology, which has been around for more than 30 years, is poised to make a giant leap forward in capabilities.

“We are just now starting to see the fruits of these developments,” said Rob Connelly, vice president of additive manufacturing for Proto Labs, referring to a spate of recent announcements about advancements in new machines, materials, and software.

We recently interviewed three leaders from the 3D printing industry for insight into the current and future state of 3D printing:

John Murray

  • Rob Connelly, Vice President, Additive Manufacturing, Proto Labs
  • Patrick Dunne, Vice President, Advanced Application Development, 3D Systems, which manufactures and sells 3D printers
  • John Murray, President and CEO, U.S., Concept Laser, a global provider of 3D metal printing systems

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