Laser Lines and Wipac create 3D printing efficiency
This week’s blog looks at how we helped one of our automotive customers bring 3D printing in-house, saving both time and money.
Wipac designs and manufactures exterior lighting products for the world’s premium car makers including Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Rolls Royce.
It prides itself on being a technology leader in this market, with state-of-the-art design, development, test and manufacturing facilities producing very high quality products.
A lengthy process
One area where Wipac felt it could improve efficiencies was in the manufacture of masks for headlight housing. This was a manufacturing process that Wipac outsourced and, as Dan Cobb, production engineer at Wipac, explains, a process that could be quite time consuming:
“After doing the design work in-house, we would send the design out for quotes which obviously took time to come back, and then there would be another wait of two or three weeks to have the design manufactured. If, after trialling the product, we found it wasn’t suitable, we’d be back to square one again, meaning it could take weeks or even months to get just one correct mask produced.”
Laser Lines advice
The team at Wipac knew that bringing 3D printing in-house was one option available to them and turned to Laser Lines for advice. As Dan continues: “We’ve had a relationship with Laser Lines for almost ten years now as we use laser marking devices within the business and so approached them to do some 3D printing tests for us.”
“The team at Laser Lines actually did an impressive amount of work for us, producing numerous prototypes, recommending the different materials we should use, as well as looking at the different cost involved in producing each mask. This enabled us to carry out a comprehensive cost and time analysis, which convinced us that bringing the technology in-house was the right thing to do.”
Jane Gibbons, technical sales engineer at Laser Lines, explains further: “When we started to talk to the team at Wipac about bringing 3D printing in-house, it became clear that the business had a very specific set of requirements.”
“One size definitely does not fit all in the world of 3D printing and, to guarantee the most cost- and time-effective solution for Wipac, as well as the maximum ROI for the business, we carried out these extensive benchmark tests so we could underpin our technology recommendations with robust, quantifiable facts.”
Hours not weeks
Since investing in the Fortus 250mc from Laser Lines, Wipac has seen huge cost savings as well as a massive reduction in the time taken to produce the masks. Rather than weeks to produce a mask, the team can now manufacture a new mask in 24 hours.
Because of this quick turnaround, the business is benefiting from increased flexibility. As Dan explains: “If the first iteration of a new design of mask doesn’t work perfectly once produced and trialled, we can tweak the design and have another one made in 24 hours.”
The Wipac business as a whole was extremely receptive to bringing the technology in-house, particularly when it could see the cost, time and efficiency savings that the device would bring, and it has been a great success.
As Dan concludes: “At the moment, we’re currently creating two or three masks each day and there’s a pipeline of work scheduled which will require the machine to run solidly, 24-7, until April, a fact which highlights just how quickly the technology has become an integral part of our day-to-day operation.”