Manufacturing Without Compromise
James Anderton posted on April 13, 2018 |
(Image courtesy of Essentium.)
(Image courtesy of Essentium.)

If you’ve worked in product development or R&D at any point in the last 30 years, then you’ve likely worked with 3D printing. At some point you’ve probably nodded along with an amused, mildly impressed expression as a well-meaning salesperson shows off a thingamajig with rotating inner gizmos all printed simultaneously on one machine.

Sure, it’s neat. It’s far from practical for your industry, but neat.

Perhaps you have a few extrusion or photopolymer curing machines yourself. They’re handy for prototyping, running off a jig or fixture, but they’re far from fast or accurate enough to run large volumes of parts. All this may lead your eyes to glaze over at the mention of a new 3D printer on the market.

But maybe the solution isn’t really a 3D printer.

The Problem with 3D Printing

3D printing requires compromise. Want a faster part? You’re going to have to compromise accuracy. Want a more accurate part? You’ll need to compromise speed. The output of the machine is unable to match the output of injection molding and CNC in speed, accuracy, and material strength.

3D printing often only makes sense for high value, low volume parts that you can’t make any other way. That value is simply too narrow a margin for most industries, especially given the high cost of initial – and ongoing – investment in the technology. If you can’t scale the product, it’s difficult to justify the investment. And with 3D printing right now, you simply cannot scale the product.

What you need isn’t necessarily a machine to replace your current 3D printers. Instead, a machine meant to sit next to your 3-axis and help you run more parts, more quickly and more cost effectively could be the solution.

HSE: It’s [Not] a 3D Printer

Essentium is set to offer a high-speed extrusion machine to fit this solution, which the company describes as “not really a 3D printer.” Yes, if you want to get technical, the HSE machines do build parts layer by layer. However, there is no sacrifice of accuracy for speed.

These machines use the same material as standard CNC and injection molding platforms and deliver the same performance quality. The production is also scalable, and offers an alternative manufacturing method to your 3-axis, a complement to your injection molding shop and a boost to your production line.

(Image courtesy of Essentium.)
(Image courtesy of Essentium.)

Bridging the Gap Between 3D Printing & Machining

First, Essentium solved for speed. Their High Speed Extrusion (HSE) platform can offer speeds close to 10x faster than most 3D printers. This increased speed ensures even cooling, which helps increase accuracy.

The key is Essentium’s development of a unique, high temperature nozzle capable of extruding at 10-15x the force of other printing nozzles. This nozzle reduces heat mass, which allows users to take advantage of a wider range of materials.

By reducing the impact of the nozzle on the material being extruded, users are able to change the temperature of the nozzle quickly from 0 – 600 degrees Fahrenheit in 2 seconds. Finer control over temperature further strengthens the parts printed on the HSE platform and maintains higher accuracy.

The HSE platform uses G-code similar both CNC and Marlin based FFF printers. This helps reduce the need for lengthy learning curves that are sometimes needed for other 3D printing systems. Essentium’s HSE is easy to set up, understand and start seeing in production. It also doesn’t require a heavily controlled environment; if you’ve got a 220 volt plug, you’re ready to go.

HSE offers material quality and accuracy on par with machining and injection molding. 3D printing typically shows weaker strength along the Z axis, but HSE integrates FlashFuse, which helps make parts that are going to be equally strong across the X, Y, and Z axis, and will showcase the same tensile strength as a part of the same material delivered from your CNC or injection molding platforms.

Case Use Examples: Mass Manufacturing with Essentium’s HSE

If you put a tooled-up and ready-to-go injection molding machine next to an HSE platform, then sure, that injection molding machine is going to outpace the HSE process. But what about before that tool comes in?

Let’s say you’re producing a fairly standard part, around the size of a cellphone. It can take anywhere from 30-60 days to create your tool. During that wait time, an HSE platform could produce hundreds of parts on a single machine in a typical 8-hour workday—that’s hundreds of parts at the same quality and usability of those made with injection molding. By the time you’re popping out parts with injection molding, you could have built 19,000 parts ready for the real world on your HSE platform.

Similar to downtime waiting for that first tool, taking down one of your 3-axis machines to run a first article is not cost effective. HSE is a complement to your machine shop; running first – and subsequent – articles on your HSE is simply more cost effective.

In addition to running large volumes of products, the HSE platform fits into your niche tooling and fixture workflow. We often say plenty of products have gone to market without ever creating a physical prototype, but you’ll rarely find a part produced without tooling. Rather than dedicating your CNC to creating perfect-fit fixtures and tools for assembly or quality checking, an HSE platform can get these done quickly—without losing time on your more expensive equipment.

(Image courtesy of Essentium.)
(Image courtesy of Essentium.)

Essentium Offers Essential Solutions

The three pillars of production are price, performance and material. Essentium’s HSE platform can offer up to 10x faster speeds at a quarter of the price compared to other 3D printers on the market. HSE prints with the same accuracy and strength of CNC and injection molded parts, and users aren’t locked into one material ecosystem; Essentium’s platform built to be configurable depending on the needs of your project.

To learn more about how Essentium delivers manufacturing without compromise, visit the Essentium website.

This post is sponsored by Essentium Materials. 

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