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CASE STUDY: JIGS AND FIXTURES

Peak Group delivers 3D printed ‘shop floor-ready’ parts in record time

Better designed and a faster time to the market – investing in a Fortus 360 has increased production capacity for The Peak Group by 3D printing the most high quality “impossible parts” and making incredibly substantial time savings.

The customer

The Peak Group is a proven manufacturer of high quality Automated Test Equipment and Electronic Test Systems based in Hertfordshire. With more than 30 years industry experience, they design, manufacture and assemble bespoke fixtures and systems for a vast range of clients in-house.

The challenge

One of their clients needed to build 60 gas meter fixtures in 10 different varieties. The parts would take two months to manufacture using traditional tooling machines, but the client needed the parts as soon as possible. The requirement to manufacture 10 ‘same but different’ varieties meant traditional tooling methods would require all 60 fixtures to be tooled by hand. The Peak Group approached 3D printing experts, Laser Lines, for a better solution.

The solution

David Cowan, Director of Electro Mechanical Design at The Peak Group, wanted to see if the jigs could be 3D printed to a high standard that they would be happy with. “My biggest concern was that a 3D printed jig wouldn’t be robust enough for the final system, “ says David. “We traditionally use Delrin for our parts but Laser Lines’ Bureau Service suggested printing some benchmark pieces for us, using Nylon 12.”

The results

By creating 3D CAD files for each variety, Laser Lines’ Bureau Service was able to print all the designs at the same time. “Occasionally with Delrin we get some curling, but here the sample parts we received were unbelievably robust, flat and accurate,” adds David. “These fixtures are placed under a lot of stress on the shop floor but printing them in Nylon 12 cemented our belief that this was the right technology for us.”

Time savings

Laser Lines’ Bureau Service was able to 3D print all the jigs in one week – 88 per cent faster than traditional tooling methods. By using FDM technology, The Peak Group recognised the potential for further applications and approached Laser Lines about investing in a 3D printer.

Laser Lines, which has the largest selection of Stratasys machines in the UK, helped them evaluate which machine was best suited to their needs and suggested a Stratasys Fortus 360.

“Since we received our Fortus 360 it has been running non-stop. When some parts can take five man-hours to make, we just print them overnight. This means we have been able to increase productivity and throughput with the same amount of employees,” says David.

With a large build envelope (355mm x 254mm x 254mm), the Fortus 360 can print up to 14 different parts in one print run. The variety of materials it can print in was also a key factor in the buying decision. “3D printing has opened up a whole new ball park in the way we design,” adds David.

“Whereas before we assembled six or seven components to make a part, now we print it as one piece. I can design for function rather than form. I can add in chamfers, radiuses and use complex geometry to design a more functional piece, which I wouldn’t be able to create on our mills. It is making us rethink the way we design.”

“We are getting a lot of feedback from customers who can’t believe the quality of the parts that we are now 3D printing. Laser Lines has been great and responded to any queries we’ve had, quickly and efficiently.”

Richard Bushel, Director of The Peak Group says, “We are always looking for new technologies and approaches that will deliver a better solution for our customers.”

“3D Printing has given our design team new a way of solving problems and an ability to make things we couldn’t before. By investing in this technology we can offer our customers an improved service, not only in time but also through more innovative design.”

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"3D printing has opened up a whole new ball park in the way we design. The Fortus 360 is running non-stop.”

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