Stratasys Aims to Build on Success with Latest Production 3D Printer
Tom Lansford posted on January 08, 2016 |
European automaker Opel is already using the company’s 3D printers on the assembly line.
3D printing for production. Opel, Europe's third leading automaker, uses a Fortus such as this for production parts.
3D printing for production. Opel, Europe's third leading automaker, uses a Fortus such as this for production parts.

Last year, 3D printing experts signaled an increase in their business for end-part production. Now, they are sharing more direct-manufacturing customer success stories at the recently held Formnext conference and exhibition.

At the end of 2014, CEO David Reis described the Stratasys strategy, which included growing direct digital manufacturing (DDM). Throughout 2015, the company released products and showcased customers and partners who demonstrate and support this move to increased digital manufacturing.

In the first half of 2015, the company launched the updated Objet 1000 Plus—an upgrade to the company's largest format system that supports more materials and uses an improved, faster build process. The improved build times resulted from analyzing and optimizing the build process to remove unnecessary movements. The print speeds are up to 40 percent faster than the Objet 1000.

Productivity is more than faster printing. The Objet 1000 Plus with its large print envelope and multiple material capabilities provides greater flexibility to customers in organizing builds. For example, it allows clients to print prototype and final parts within the same build. In part, this is because the Objet 1000 Plus can use more than 100 materials, and up to 14 materials can be used in a single build cycle. New materials added to the selection include Stratasys' Endur Digital materials. The Endur materials combine two resins in a single material to produce parts with different material properties. 

Stratasys enhanced manufacturing capabilities with material canisters, namely the Xtend 500 Fortus Plus, which is five times larger than standard canisters. The significance is seen in having much longer, unattended build durations. The Fortus 380, 450 and 900 MC systems can all use the larger canisters for production runs. The increased material capacity allows systems to run unattended for almost a week. 

The focus on meeting the needs of industrial production environments has paid off. The company had discussed uses for 3D printing on production lines. Companies such as Opel in Europe are using Fortus 3D printers to save costs and add flexibility on their production lines. The automotive giant uses Fortus printers to produce assembly tools and saves as much as 90 percent on tooling costs, according to Stratasys in their company blog. The use of additive manufacturing for assembly tools reduces production lead times for tools as well as costs and provides the ability to quickly produce custom tooling. 

Using 3D printing for tools, Opel involves assembly line workers in the tool design process. The experience of line operators in the tool design phase improves the efficiency of tool designs. Because the tool production is done using Fortus 3D printers, the iterative design process is also faster. 

Stratasys focuses on its manufacturing customers as well as those in rapid prototyping. These two client groups have very different requirements. This is a reason for which the company is organized with an industry-specific go-to-market structure. One thing is sure—having made a commitment to support customers in DDM, the company has delivered new products tailored to this segment and is, apparently, reaping the rewards.

About the Author

Tom Lansford is a marketing consultant and analyst. He manages CADplace, a multi-lingual site for CAD professionals. He has a degree in computer science and has worked in the computer graphics industry for more 25 years. He provides marketing services for clients in North America, Europe and Asia, and he speaks four languages, including fluent German and French. His professional interests include visualization, simulation, graphics solutions and professional video. 

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