3 Ways 3D Printing Can Improve Manufacturing Efficiencies
Shane Laros posted on October 04, 2016 |

3D printing is still finding its role in manufacturing, but in an effort to show the industrial benefits of additive manufacturing, Schneider Electric has teamed up with Stratasys to develop and implement its own factory of the future.

Schneider has begun using Stratasys Polyjet and FDM-based 3D printers in product development, prototyping and manufacturing, all in an effort to streamline these processes, and it seems to be working.

Sylvain Gire, VP GSC transformation-industrialization at Schneider has outlined several ways that Stratasys’ 3D printing technology has improved efficiency.


1) 3D-Printed Injection Molds for Prototyping Designs

3D-printed injection molds for prototype designs can be much more affordable than those made from machined aluminum.
3D-printed injection molds for prototype designs can be much more affordable than those made from machined aluminum.
Gire noted that the company has drastically lowered the costs and production time of its prototyping phase by using 3D-printed injection molds over the standard machined aluminum versions.

“Manufacturing the prototype molds in aluminum necessitates–in some cases–a lead time of as much as two months, but with Stratasys’ 3D printing solutions, the whole process is completed within a week. That’s a roughly 90 percent saving again, which would be unfathomable with any other technology,” Gire stated.


2) Design and Engineering of Assembly-Line Tooling

A 3D-printed jig allows for quick functional tests and flexible design iterations while in production.
A 3D-printed jig allows for quick functional tests and flexible design iterations while in production.
Of course, 3D printing has been used for rapid prototyping for some time, but the cost- and time-saving benefits of additive manufacturing go beyond the early product design stages. For example, Schneider’s mechanical design and engineering department make use of 3D printed tools and jigs to help streamline their processes.

“This technology has changed the way we work and changes the way we think about doing things in the future,” said department manager, Yann Sittarame.

“Looking ahead, we plan to 3D print the final tools, which is perfectly achievable given the accuracy and durability of our 3D printing process,” he added.


3) 3D-Printed Spare Parts

A 3D-printed electric component housing (left), next to the original part (right).
A 3D-printed electric component housing (left), next to the original part (right).
The last step in Schneider’s factory of the future is using 3D-printed parts as products themselves, particularly for spare parts and those that do not require large production runs.

“We will continue to leverage Stratasys 3D printing solutions for the ongoing development of our tooling process, predominantly for the production of small quantities of new products. We’ll also shortly be looking to use Stratasys’ 3D printing solutions for final production, such as for spare parts or for low-volume requirements,” he said.

Stratasys sees partnerships with companies like Schneider Electric as essential in promotion of additive manufacturing as an industrial tool.

“Schneider Electric’s innovative use of 3D printing in their current manufacturing processes and as a key strategy in their Factory of the Future program epitomizes their leadership in global connected energy management,” said Andy Middleton, president, Stratasys, EMEA.

For more information, visit the Schneider Electric and Stratasys websites.

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