Tooling, in general, is a mechanised process of acquiring various manufacturing components needed for large-scale productions. Having said that, researchers round the globe are actively working on reducing the overall costs invested in designing and manufacturing such tools. The question then draws down to the following – How can one reduce the cost without affecting its strength and functionalities? A simple answer to this is Additive Manufacturing.
A lot has been talked about 3D Printing since its inception. Moreover, serious promises were made with 3D Printing revolutionising the industry eventually. Critics have been harsh on 3D Printing ideologies since the beginning of its inception. However, with the advent of science and technology, 3D Printing has gradually managed to prove its importance in the manufacturing business. Let’s go ahead with one such example now – tooling.
Consider a situation where one’s leads need mass-customisation on tooling or rapid prototyping for functional testing. Keeping in mind that one has no surety on lead conversion, what would be his/her next step? Either his/her leads need to accept the design prepared, or they would have to silently let the order pass. Let us now understand how and where 3D Printing can help SMEs and major powerhouses with effective and accurate solutions.
3D Printing & its diverse applications in tooling
The biggest advantage of 3D printed applications falls under the category of batch production. A metal cast conventional tooling process can make several lakhs bends or parts. However, 3D printed parts can function as a pilot tool for making a few thousand highly customised components necessary for batch production. On the other hand, researchers around the globe are undertaking various activities to extend the effective range of 3D Printing to large scale productions. Let’s talk about the application side of Additive Manufacturing now.
3D printed press brakes & forming: One might have come across an idea to bend metal parts with plastic. Currently, technology has managed to develop some such jaw-dropping innovations in the press brake industries. One can enjoy the advantages of 3D printed tools in diverse applications, such as rapid prototyping, short runs, modifications and surface finishing. The motto being the same, from one part to one million, don’t let any order go. Let’s say one’s sales team just received a new RFQ for a large number of customised small quantity orders. The client sends the company a design and it is left with non-standard tooling. What will one do? Metal tooling for a contract one is not sure of? Let the order pass by and wait for large quantity orders? It’s a big loss, right? Simple answer – opt for in-house 3D Printing. It will save millions apart from saving time and manpower resources. One might be thinking of die marks by now. Die marks are usually hindrances in the fabrication industry. 3D printed tooling will be a perfect match provided it suits the company’s production volume.
3D printed jigs: Jigs & fixtures are usually manufactured and fabricated using metal or wood imposing serious design challenges and heavy investment in production time. The strong plastic used in 3D Printing has been technologically proven to be a better alternative to metals and woods. Most importantly, they are light and aid in increased productivity and the lifespan of the final product. They are equivalent in terms of quality and don’t pose hindrances in costs incurred. All are aware of the fact that intricate design features require specialised machining and tooling processes when implemented with conventional tooling. With 3D Printing, one can lower down significant cost and machining time. Moreover, one can also achieve blind internal complex features that are otherwise impossible with conventional manufacturing processes.
3D printed tooling for pulp packaging: One must be well aware of the fact that packaging is the first point of contact with consumer eyeballs. Most importantly, it’s the first appearance that strikes the emotion of any consumer and that brings us to the very subject of this discussion. How to aesthetically improve packaging materials by saving millions? The answer is Additive Manufacturing. One must have heard about green India, sustainability and many more initiatives for a cleaner country. How about going green with Additive Manufacturing and saving millions? 3D Printing for packaging helps in easy recycling and zero waste of materials. Besides being a sustainable technology, Additive Manufacturing does not use extra materials than what was pre-programmed. Most importantly, it creates the entire packaging at one-go without involving separate processes.
3D printed tool for injection moulds with conformal cooling: The benefits of metal 3D Printing lie mainly with injection moulding leveraged by conformal cooling process. From multi-cavity moulds to highly complex designs, conformal cooling helps in the rapid production of intricate tools as compared to conventional methods of tooling. Businesses working on 3D Printing ecosystem reduces cycle time by over 70%, achieving better part quality and reduced design time and production costs.
Leveraging futuristic design & manufacturing
In the automotive industry alone, the production of tooling components can result in an expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars with years of development time. Designing and manufacturing specialised tooling contribute to the most expensive aspect of the production process. Moreover, provided a tool breaks or design changes, the entire production life cycle gets delayed until fixed with a replacement. Additive Manufacturing helps in the easy production of mechanised tooling in just a matter of hours instead of weeks as compared with conventional methodologies. Leveraging the diverse advantages of 3D Printing can help businesses win more bids with a more competitive timeline and reduced cost per part. 3D Printing is a next-generation technology; all one needs is to impart one’s creativity and the machine will execute whatever one wants.