We all know about using FDM technology to build concept models, functional prototypes and end-use parts. But here are seven additional ways that FDM can be used to prevent mistakes, save time, and refine design for the manufacturing floor:
1. Fixtures. Mack’s Application Development Center (ADC) uses FDM technology to print fixtures to hold complex plastic part shapes for the ultrasonic installation of metal inserts. “FDM helps us make a fixture that exactly fits the part so it self-orients for further operations, including silk screening, laser marking, pad printing, and ultrasonic inserts,” says John Zuk, director, application development.
3. De-gating. The ADC also 3D prints fixtures to securely hold parts for precise, clean de-gating, either flush or below the surface.
4. Time-to-market. The ADC creates FDM parts before molds are completed for actual production runs so Metrology can test CMM fixtures and programs prior to tool delivery. “This allows us to improve part measurement techniques before launching into actual production, and can cut weeks off the schedule,” says Zuk.
5. Refined design. “We’ve also used FDM to print both an unusually shaped orthopedic instrument for hip surgery, as well as the sheet metal surgical tray that holds it,” says Zuk. “That allowed us to test the ability of the tray design to effectively hold the instrument so it wouldn’t dislodge or move around in the tray whether the lid was on or off. We sent it to the customer for verification, which allowed us to test and refine the design before any steel was cut or actual manufacturing began. You can use this method to test multiple designs before going in any one direction, saving time and money.”
6. Robotic tooling. The ADC also plans to use 3D printing for end-of-arm tooling for molding machine robots. “The custom tools would ensure proper placement of unusually shaped parts on the conveyor belt as they are transported for further secondary operations,” explains Zuk.
7. Paint masking. Likewise, the ADC plans to use FDM technology to print hard masks for complex shapes before they are painted.
Contact: John Zuk, Director, Application Development, Mack Molding