10 ways 3D printing drives plastic manufacturing
In some applications, 3D printing cannot be touched, and may never be touched. For example, for production runs of thousands of parts, the choice of 3D printing plastic components cannot compete with the speed and efficiency of existing processes (such as injection molding). However, in many other applications and many different uses, 3D printing not only improves plastic manufacturing, but also expands the range of options for plastic parts. Here are 10 ways 3D printing can move forward:
1. Faster throughput
On some scales, 3D printing is indeed an option for production, and the scale is constantly expanding. Today, some 3D printers designed for production produce parts orders of magnitude faster than previously accepted speeds. For example, 3D Systems stated that its 3D printing system produced in Figure 4 is 15 times faster than previous industrial 3D printers, and reduces the unit cost of 3D printed parts by 20%. This is partly due to the shortening circulation time.
2. Larger parts
Very large polymer 3D printers such as the BAAM machine from Cincinnati Incorporated may provide a volume of 180 cubic meters. This is huge, and machine models such as these have attracted a lot of attention. But it is also worth noting that the range of available machine models is much smaller, but still very large. Various machine manufacturers have introduced cost-effective industrial 3D printers that make the size of the part the same as the size of the large molded part. The 3DMonstr Super-Rex 3D printer is a representative example, with a build volume of 3 cubic meters.
3. New choice for short-term molds
3D printing provides a short lead time option for directly manufacturing a small number of parts, but also provides a short lead time option for manufacturing injection molds. The correct choice of polymer can reliably produce low-to-medium-volume molds. Avante Technology 3D in Wyoming uses carbon fiber-reinforced polymer to print an injection mold that has lasted more than 100 cycles. The company said it can last 500 cycles.
4. More efficient production of molds
At the same time, 3D printing in steel can improve molds for mass production. Using printed conformal cooling channels instead of straight drilling, mold cooling is more effective, which may improve the quality of molded parts and shorten cycle time. Mold supplier Conformal Cooling Solutions uses robotic deposition technology to 3D print large injection molds with conformal channels.
5. Consumer goods customization
Nowadays, medical and dental products are usually tailor-made for individuals through 3D printing, so how far are they from our consumer products? The work of various footwear suppliers shows that soon there will be shoes that best fit the wearer’s feet. The 3D footprint is an example of the company advancing this idea. The company uses 3D scans of individual feet onto 3D printed shoes with customized midsoles that use grids for precise support and cushioning.
6. New manufacturing business model
Can the manufacturing plant be located in the center of the city? Today, manufacturers tend to locate industrial parks in the suburbs with easy access to major highways. But due to relying on 3D printing, Voodoo Manufacturing was able to set up a factory in Brooklyn. The company uses 160 desktop printers to work at the same time to achieve part productivity, which makes the company cost-competitive in injection molding and faster delivery, with batches of 10,000 pieces.
7. Replace metal with plastic
In many cases, metal is the material of choice for a given part, because metal provides the easiest way to obtain robust functional parts in small quantities. Machining parts from aluminum is a practical option. But as 3D printing is now able to efficiently deliver polymer parts in small quantities, metals will no longer be so frequently selected materials. Carbon fiber-filled 3D printing polymers can even replace hard or strong metals.
8. More effective tool making
3D printing is booming on disposable parts, and in any manufacturing plant, the most common type of disposable parts may be its own internal tools. In other words, not only molds, but also fixtures, fixtures and all types of industrial tools. Most of this tool can be made of polymers instead of metal parts, and when manufactured on a 3D printer, it does not need to consume production capacity, or even take up a lot of production staff time. With the help of 3D printing, Volkswagen Autoeuropa has shortened its tool development time by 95%, while improving the ergonomics of the tool and simplifying the repair and modification of the tool.
9. Prototype without hindering production
Just as there is no need to cut tools into production, manufacturing prototypes can also be kept isolated from production resources. Desktop polymer printers are generally effective not only for appearance prototypes, but also for functional prototypes. Stanley Black & Decker recently launched a simple 3D desktop printer with a floor area of 200 square millimeters. With such resources, the engineer can make a prototype on his or her desk without requiring the attention of the manufacturing staff.
10. Internal mobility in manufacturing
As the company adopts industrial 3D printers to accelerate product development through in-house prototype production, this is only a short-term leap for in-house production of parts. Arizona Home Floors is a developer of tools for installing and removing floors and never intended to be a manufacturer. It previously outsourced manufacturing. However, it is a new chisel hammer developed recently, and using part prototypes to make certain components on the same 3D printer proved to be the most effective method. As more and more companies choose this route, 3D printing is not only expanding the application range of plastics, but also expanding the field of plastic manufacturing.
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