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Making the most of 3D Printing in Manufacturing

When it comes to leveraging the power of additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3D printing (3DP), having a versatile family of 3D printers to choose from is essential, but making the most out of what they can do is what really matters. 3D printing has always been a perfect fit for rapid prototyping and will continue to serve this application very well. But the real beauty of 3D printing is that it removes the constraints associated with traditional manufacturing, providing a blank canvas upon which creative minds can develop new applications. To help expand your knowledge of the potential of 3D printing technology, we address six manufacturing applications typically associated with traditional production techniques.

Objective3D is hosting a series of Professional 3D Printing and 3D Scanning Workshops in October and November 2018 where you can learn how to identify and fully leverage the benefits of 3D Printing technologies. 

Use 3D Printed Jigs and Fixtures for dramatic time and cost savings
Jigs and fixtures are most commonly fabricated from metal, wood or plastic in quantities of just a few to several hundred using a manual or semi-automated process. On average, each tool takes between one and four weeks to design and build. However, elaborate or intricate tools may require several cycles of design, prototyping, and evaluation to attain the required performance. In contrast to conventional manufacturing methods, 3DP technology provides a fast and accurate method of producing jigs and fixtures. Additionally, these tools can be designed for optimal performance and ergonomics because 3DP Technology places few constraints on tool configuration and 3DP materials are lightweight compared to metal.

3D Printed Composite Tools enables faster, more agile composite production
The aerospace and automotive industries pioneered the use of composite materials for strong, lightweight vehicles and structures. However, the tooling used to create them is often heavy and bulky, machined from aluminum, steel or Invar (a nickel-iron alloy), at a substantial cost and lengthy production time. These same characteristics also hinder design flexibility. Changes to a composite part’s design mean the tooling needs to change, too. This repeats the cycle of high cost and long lead times, ultimately extending production cycles.

3DP technology offers an attractive alternative to disruptive potential. Composite lay-up tools made from 3DP materials can be designed and created in a fraction of the time and cost it takes to create them using conventional manufacturing. That frees up time and money for design iterations, while still maintaining acceptable production schedules.

3D Printed Production Parts
Most companies that manufacture high-volume products are looking for ways to stay competitive in today’s marketplace. However, the processes they use to manufacture their products are still heavily reliant on expensive tooling and long lead times. As a result, these companies are limited in their ability to respond quickly to market changes or implement product refinements. By integrating 3DP technology into production, manufacturers can bypass the traditional constraints to quickly develop and manufacture new products, and improve existing ones.

End-of-Arm Tooling with 3D Printing Technology (EOAT)
End-of-arm tools made with FDM technology offer a number of benefits over the traditional methods and materials used to make them. 3DP can produce working end effectors in a very short amount of time and for much less cost because there’s no machining or long lead times involved. Tool designs can be changed quickly and easily by revising the CAD model and printing a new tool. And design complexity isn’t a factor in the tool’s cost because of additive manufacturing’s inherent freedom from design-for-manufacturability constraints.

3D Printing accelerates the Sand Casting Process
The production of sand molds and cast metal parts is relatively straightforward and suitable for automated methods. However, fabrication of the patterns used to produce the sand molds is often difficult, time-consuming and expensive. The most common approach is to produce patterns using CNC machining, but the production costs are high and the lead time is substantial.

Problems like incorrect shrink compensation and design flaws generally require that the pattern is reworked, which adds to the expense and lead time. Gate and runner systems (distribution channels and entry points to the mold) are typically cut from modeling board or a similar material, hand-carved and then sanded to the finished shape. This also adds expense and lead time.

Because of these problems, foundries have turned to additive manufacturing. To replace the machined pattern, additively manufactured patterns must withstand the ramming forces that are applied to pack the sand, be abrasion resistant, and be unaffected by the chemicals in the sand binders and mold release. Most additive manufacturing technologies have been unable to meet these challenges.

However, 3DP materials like ABS, polycarbonate (PC), PC-ABS and ULTEM 9085 resin meet all of these requirements.

3DP parts have the compressive strength needed for use as a sand casting pattern. The surface finish of 3DP parts meets all the requirements of sand casting patterns when post-processed. Post-processing also seals the molding surface to prevent release agents from penetrating and sand from sticking.

From Packaging to Aerospace, 3D Printing makes Quick Work of  Thermo-forming Tools
While vacuum-formed production and tooling costs tend to remain reasonable for large parts, preparing tools for vacuum forming can be costly and time-consuming. Tools are usually made of aluminum for large production operations while wooden tools are sometimes used for small production series. Regardless of the material, tooling requires the time and labor associated with setting up and operating a milling machine. If machining is unavailable onsite, tooling may be outsourced, slowing time to market and potentially increasing design expenses.

Because thermo-forming doesn’t require extreme heat or pressure, additive manufacturing is a viable alternative. Although tool life will not equal that of aluminum, the materials available with 3DP technology are ideal for prototyping and short-run manufacturing. Tool life ranges from 100 to 1,000 parts depending on the tool and part materials that are used.

3D printing eliminates much of the time and labor associated with machining vacuum-forming tools. Data preparation is completed in minutes, so tool construction can begin immediately after tool design. Automated, unattended additive manufacturing operations eliminate the time typically needed for

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Our One Day Professional 3D Technology Workshops are designed to help you implement 3DP into your business model.


  • An introduction to 3D Printing including an Industry Overview
  • Technology overview - FDM / PolyJet / SLS / SLA / DMLS
  • Technology and Material Selection
  • Design Criterion - Optimisation
  • Part orientation, slice section, editing files using GrabCAD Print
  • 3D Scanning and Reverse Engineering – Hands-on Test Drive
  • 3D Printing Post-Processing Workshop - Support removal, Finishing, Assembly, Surface Treatment, etc. 
October and November Dates now available. Book Now >>

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