We’ve been 3D Printing parts for over a year and a half now, and we’re approaching the one year anniversary of Staub Additive. In that short amount of time, we have learned so much about Additive Manufacturing. In the early days, we worked hard to learn the nuances of the technology. We learned about support structures, file preparation, software quirks, and basic machine operation. We learned the way that everyone does with 3D Printing – by using the technology.
Since we’ve mastered the basics of 3D Printing on our Fortus 400, Connex3, and Form 1+, we’ve moved on to advanced processes. Customers challenge us to provide them with parts that our printers just cannot produce. By doing a lot of research and countless experiments, we’ve begun to push the envelope of what we can do with 3D Printing.
We’ve been doing smooth finishing for a while now. We are also offering custom painting and finishing, and our customers really like the results. You’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between a 3D Printed part and an injection molded part once we’re finished with it!
Recently we’ve begun installing threaded metal inserts into printed parts. We can do this two ways: One method is to press them in by force, using an arbor press. The other way is to use heat to press them in – even in Ultem. Both ways are effective, and add a great deal of strength to these parts. These parts can now be used functionally, and hold up to real stresses.
We didn’t invent the idea of encasing a figure in clear material. Ever since seeing an example of a ship in a bottle at AMUG last year, Travis has been dying to try designing a similar part for the Connex3. He and Dan worked together to create a beautiful part that encases our 40th logo in a clear shell. Wow, it is gorgeous!
Spreading the Benefits
As 3D Printing spreads through our company, people are seeing how beneficial it can be to a manufacturing environment. We’re using Additive parts for CMM fixtures, machining jigs, and organizational tools. By using our FDM printer, we can make these tools and fixtures with minimal labor. Also, they can be designed with complete freedom
Mike, our Turning Center Supervisor, needed a better solution for organizing pin gages for a recurring job. He asked our Additive Department to design and print a custom pin gage rack. Not long after, Mike’s inspection tools are well organized and labeled. He doesn’t need to spend time searching for a pin gage or worry about losing one because it rolled off his bench.
Our Manufacturing Engineer, Brendan, created a custom-made part unloading ramp for a DMG turning center. It clips in perfectly to the machine, and is complete with drainage channels for coolant to be recycled. He designed it one day, sent it to our Additive department that night, and picked it up the next morning! Parts are rolling down it as I write this blog post!
We’ve made many mistakes. We’ve failed many builds and ruined many parts. But the best thing about 3D Printing, is that it allows us to fail really fast. When we make a mistake, all we have to do is find the problem, correct it, and restart the build. Often problems are impossible to predict, and the only way to know if a part will work out is to try to build it. This process of trial and error, build and rebuild, comes with the territory. The best way to learn something is by doing it. The failures that we’ve experienced have taught us how to avoid the problems that cause failed builds. And if we’re not failing builds, we can spend our time in other ways.