VIDEO: 3D Printing and Manufacturing Go Hand-in-Hand
James Anderton posted on December 10, 2015 |
Injection molds and small product runs are faster and easier with additive manufacturing.

3D printing has made a breakthrough into the manufacturing industry under the name of additive manufacturing.

This disruptive technology has found applications in injection mold making and parts production. recently spoke with Charles Evans, application engineer with Stratasys, about how useful 3D printing technologies are becoming for manufacturers.

Evans had a collection of printed parts on display including molds, jigs, fixtures and even end-of-arm robotic tooling.

“This was originally an aluminum tool that a customer used with vacuum plate technology,” Evans explained. “We took this part and integrated the vacuum tubing right into it and now they’re using this on their robots today.”

Part runs ranging from 10 to 150 are possible with the low temperature materials used in 3D printing solutions similar to what Stratasys offers. Ultimately, the possible production quantity is determined by the complexity and size of the part.

However, the ultimate selling point for 3D printing is the speed with which molds and parts can be produced.

“A mold can be printed overnight in eight or 10 hours,” Evans said. “You can go in and do your design changes the next day and shoot some parts, see what it looks like and have another one ready to go right away.”

Jigs and fixtures can be produced just as quickly.

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Evans adds that 3D printing systems are exceptionally easy to learn. “It’s very easy to learn how to use this system. As long as you have a CAD file, you can create a part. On the flip side, you can do a lot of customization. That initial part creation can be very easy and you can later go through a refinement process to get something that really works better for your process.”

When asked if Evans believes 3D printing may one day take over the manufacturing industry, his response was a measured one.

“[3D Printing] is really more about working alongside manufacturing as a complimentary technology. There are certain things in the machining world and injection molding world that you’re just not going to be able to do without 3D printing.”

To learn more about the 3D printing solutions offered by Stratasys, visit their website here

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