Trade Show Roundup: Detroit and Boston

The automotive and medical industries are on display this week at a couple of high-profile trade shows:

We’ll be at SAE World Congress running today through Thursday at the COBO Center in Detroit. Find us at booth #1335 to talk with a customer service engineer about how quick-turn 3D printing, machining and injection molding are well-suited for automotive prototyping.

In Boston, we’ll be talking device development and prototyping in booth #304 at BIOMEDevice, taking place at the Boston Convention Center tomorrow and Thursday. Get a free Expo Hall pass with code: invite.

 

WEBINAR: Rapid Manufacturing Methods for Plastic Parts

Tony Holtz, Tech Specialist.

You’re invited to join Proto Labs’ live webinar presentation on rapid manufacturing. The free webinar will be hosted by our technical specialist Tony Holtz and last around 45 minutes with a Q+A to follow.

You’ll hear about the different industrial 3D printing, CNC machining and injection molding processes at Proto Labs, and learn which one is best suited for your next project, based on the project’s material requirements, quantities and lead times.

TITLE: Choosing the Right Rapid Manufacturing Method for Plastic Parts

DATE: Thursday, April 21 at 1 p.m. CDT

REGISTER:
http://event.on24.com/wcc/r/1158589/3BE5D1B5A337F26F67DEE106F834E163

Unable to attend? Register anyway and we’ll email you the recording afterward!

6 Ways to Cut Machining Costs

The left image illustrates resulting corner radii from milling. Consider adding reliefs to sharp corners (right image) to improve fit.

Machining gets a bit more complex every year, and as a result, it can be challenging to keep pace with the do’s and don’ts of part design. But lowering the cost of machined parts while improving functionality can still be achieved by a few relatively simple adjustments to your part design or material selection.

Small tool diameters add machining time so consider removing text or logos from machined prototypes.

This month’s tip discusses:

  • Machining corner holes
  • Deburring edges
  • Avoiding unnecessary text
  • Keeping an eye on thin features
  • Reducing part complexity
  • Selecting material alternatives

READ FULL DESIGN TIP.

EYE ON INNOVATION: Watch the Final Four in VR? A Slam Dunk, Almost.

So your office pool NCAA tournament bracket has long been busted. And March Madness has just made you Mad in March. At this point, you may not even care who wins this weekend.

Photo: Associated Press

Well, here’s a cool way to break out of your funk: Watch the Final Four in virtual reality. The NCAA announced earlier this week that this weekend’s Final Four and National Championship games will be, for the first time ever, live-streamed in virtual reality, including a virtual scoreboard with live stats, game commentary and arena sounds.

Sweet, right? Well, mostly sweet. As TheVerge.com notes, the NCAA is using the term “virtual reality” a bit liberally. First, basketball fans will need to get hold of a Samsung Gear VR to download the NCAA March Madness Live app in the Oculus Store. Second, the streamed video will only occupy 180 degrees — not the full 360-degree sphere. Finally, if you don’t have a Gear VR, the NCAA is making a 2D version of the 180-degree stream available on the web, and 360-degree highlight footage will be posted to the NCAA March Madness page on Facebook.  Continue reading

3D-Printed Molds vs. Aluminum Tooling

Industrial 3D printing has made a tremendous impact on the manufacturing world. Rapid prototypes are possible within a day, material selection continues to grow stronger and parts with un-manufacturable designs have found their happy place. Recently, some companies have begun using this important technology to produce injection molds.

Molds made with thermoplastics-based 3D printing are kind of like the plastic storage sheds some of us put in our back yards. They’re a little cheaper than metal sheds. They go up quickly and are fine under light loads. Pile too much snow on them, however, and they’ll collapse like a house of cards.

A 3D-printed Digital ABS mold built in an Objet Connex machine.

Still, printed molds have their place, and some shops have had good success with them. Proponents argue that 3D printing produces molds up to 90 percent faster and 70 percent cheaper than using traditional moldmaking processes. And while this may be true in some circumstances, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of printed plastic molds compared to those machined from metal.

Quality is king. 3D printing builds parts in layers. Because of this, printed parts can exhibit a stair-step effect on any angled surface or wall. Printed molds are no different, and require machining or sanding to remove these small, jagged edges. Holes smaller than 0.039 in. (1mm) must be drilled, larger holes reamed or bored, and threaded features tapped or milled. All of these secondary operations eliminate much of the “print-to-press” speed advantage associated with printed molds.

Size matters. Part volumes are limited to 10 cubic inches (164 cm3), roughly the size of a grapefruit. And although modern additive machines have impressive accuracy, they cannot compete with the machining centers and EDM equipment at Proto Labs, which routinely machine mold cavities to +/- 0.003 in. (0.076mm) and part volumes up to approximately 59 cubic inches, about six times larger than parts made with 3D printing.

The heat is on. To make material flow properly, injection molding requires very high temperatures. Aluminum and steel molds are routinely subjected to temperatures 500°F (260°C) or greater, especially when processing high-temperature plastics such as PEEK and PEI (Ultem). Aluminum tools can easily produce many thousands of parts, and can also serve as bridge tooling until a production mold is available. Molds produced with SL and similar 3D printing technologies use either photoreactive or thermoset resin, which is cured by ultraviolet or laser light respectively. These plastic molds, though relatively hard, break down fairly quickly when subjected to the demanding thermal cycles of injection molding. In fact, printed molds typically become ineffective within 100 shots of soft, hot plastic such as polyethylene or styrene, and may produce only a handful of parts from glass-filled polycarbonate and other tough thermoplastics.

Continue reading