3D Printed Jigs and Fixtures and 3D Dogs!
With the largest range of Stratasys 3D printers in the country, the Laser Lines 3D Bureau service has had a busy few months as demand for 3D printed jigs and fixtures continues to grow.
What’s printing in the bureau this month?
Right now, our Stratasys Fortus 400 systems are busy with a print run to deliver 64 just-in-time delivery trackside jigs for a well-known car company. Each jig is designed to hold 16 parts through a quality check before being delivered trackside to the production line. They have been designed to be stackable to save space trackside and they need to be printed using black PC-ABS, so that an inspection device such as a laser can inspect the part without getting any reflection or distortion from the jig.
We will be running three Fortus 400 systems to deliver the order in four weeks. Each jig takes up the whole build envelope of one Fortus 400mc. If the customer had used traditional machining methods, this order would have taken them three months to complete so we are helping them reduce not only their lead-time to manufacture but also the actual cost of the jig.
Which 3D printing materials are proving popular?
ULTEM 9085 for aerospace applications is proving to be our strongest performer for rapid manufacturing applications at the moment. It’s a flame-retardant, high performance FDM thermoplastic that is a good fit for a wide range of applications within this particular industry. We’ve also just taken on a new applications technician, David James, who has a background in aerospace engineering so we are looking forward to putting his expertise to work.
Can you offer a metal sintering service?
Yes, we are sole distributors in the UK for SLM Solutions GmbH who is a leading, global manufacturer in selective laser melting technology. Additive manufacturing is transforming metal manufacturing and we are seeing a real increase in requests from people wanting sintered metal parts, especially for avionics applications in the aerospace industry as well as in the automotive and medical sectors.
Traditionally metal systems have been a lot more immature than resins or plastics in the 3D printing world, but recently the technology has come into its own and we can deliver metal parts that our customers would never have been able to consider designing with traditional manufacturing methods. It is ideal for customers with highly complex parts or for those who want a quick route to titanium test parts for aerospace. Ultimately if you have a part that you can’t sand cast, investment cast or CNC machine – then the 3D sintered printed route is becoming a very attractive route in terms of reduced lead-time and price.
What’s the quirkiest thing you’ve been asked to 3D print?
In the bureau, it’s fair to say we are very much concerned with engineering parts. While a 3D printed jig may seem pretty mundane stuff to the consumer market, show one to an engineer and we get a lot of “WOW” moments. It’s our bread and butter. But we do occasionally get more unusual requests.
Recently we had a request to quote about printing a dog. Somebody had a 3D CAD scan of their dog and they wanted a miniature version of their cherished pet once it had passed on. Our PolyJet system would have brilliant for something like this, it can pick up all the detail of the fur and facial features. Although this particular customer decided not to go ahead this time, it just shows you how 3D printing can have a wider application and not just in engineering.