Various uses for 3D printing
Updated: Sep 3
When we think about 3D printing, the first thing that come in mind to most people is printing parts for prototype testing, printing games and toys or printing different gimmicks parts.
In fact, with optimal exploitation of the 3D printing different technologies very interesting parts can be produced not only for prototype purposes but for a very wide range of purposes, from serial production of parts in small or medium series,
creating parts and mechanisms that utilize the fact that they cannot be produced in any other way, produce parts with very efficient performance, manufacture parts as a quick and inexpensive replacement for mechanical processed parts.
In order to produce the most suitable part for any purpose, all common printing technologies and their strengths and weaknesses should be familiarized.
I will bring here some examples from my personal experience and from the experience of my company's partners in different uses of 3D printing that are less familiar.
Printing adaptors for different measuring instruments, Printing in SLS
In the factory I worked in the aerospace industry there was a very large variety of different products, each part has a different geometry and different requirements for testing critical dimensions. In addition many parts entered production whether for ongoing production or for a small “test series” production.
For each part it is necessary to construct suitable fixtures for all stages of production, whether for the purpose of performing different mechanical processing operations or for measuring the part, since each item has different geometrical dimensions, the same tools cannot be used for different parts and new fixture have to be built for every test step for every new part.
To measure the part critical dimensions, a metal jig is used. However, in cases a part had to be inspected immediately and there was no suitable fixture available we manufactured a 3D polyamide plastic adaptor in a SLS 3D printer.
The adaptor on one side was fitted to an available fixture and on the other side fitted to the dimensions of the part under test. With proper design we printed holes to fit the adaptor to the test fixture.
The printed material was very strong and very durable it performed perfectly and did not get distortions even after many measurements. We achieved a large reduce in labor, time and in the cost of manufacturing a new metal fixture to a part that was uncertain that will be produced in a large scale series.
3D Printing and casting of a part: printing in SLS, and casting the printed part
In the same factory where I worked, it was possible to print parts in a SLS 3D printer not only in hard plastic material but also with a wax-like polymer.
The part was printed using a wax-like polymer and underwent a series of preparations for casting in lost wax technology (investment casting) so that at the end of a not very long process (longer than direct 3D metal printing but shorter and much cheaper than producing a cast part of cast from scratch), a final metal part was obtained.
The metal parts were used for internal uses in the factory from large and very heavy parts for the purpose of capture and conveyance (for example, the production of large 3D printed forceps capable of lifting several dozen kilograms and overcoming problems such as high temperature of the part that we wish to transport) to small and delicate parts.
A significant advantage of this method for production metal parts over the 3D metal printing is that the only size limitation of a part is the casting facility size limit and not a metal 3D printer size limit: if we want to produce a part than is larger from the wax-like 3D printer limitation size we can print it in several segments and connect them in the wax stage (the connection in the
wax stage is significantly simpler than connecting two pieces of metal).
3D Printing of a metal cooling body
In my previous job, a start-up company called NCF - New CO2 Fuels (a company that develop a system for decomposition of CO2 gas and converting it to fuel and basic components for the production of hydrocarbon fuels such as Ethanol and Methanol).
In that company there was a requirement for a certain process:
In the process a pipe was heated inside a furnace to around 800°C-900°C and there was a requirement that a certain area of the pipe will maintain a temperature as low as possible so no damage will accrue to elements found on the pipe.
Another limitation was the geometrical size of the pipe and the furnace: the furnace itself was a standing round furnace with a small diameter cylinder in which the pipe was placed. The differences in the diameters between the cylinder of the furnace (in the heated area) and the pipe that had to be heated were very small (about 1-2 cm).
A 3D Aluminium printed cooling ring, on the right a cut of the cooling ring
In order to solve the heating problem we 3D printed (using a metal 3D printer) an Aluminum cooling ring with a spiral tube with a very small effective flow diameter (due to the space restriction). The spiral itself underwent several times inside the cooling ring. The ring had an entry and exit that was connected to a water circulation cooling system.
The cooling ring worked perfectly! Beyond all expectations: while the cooling ring outer surface saw temperatures of 800°C, 900°C and even more than 1000°C (much higher than the maximum aluminum working temperature). The coolant inside the ring kept the temperature very low (the temperature did not exceed 30°C) and as a result we obtained a gradient of approximately 800 degrees Celsius on a length of only a few centimeters.
Such a solution was ideal, planning was short and the printing was relatively fast and inexpensive, producing such a part in traditional production methods such as machining is very difficult and requires several methods that will be combined together, such as mechanical machining, drilling and welding, which highly increases the cost and lead time for production, And does not guarantee full waterproofing that can severely impair the
effectiveness of the cooling ring.
Producing parts for test equipment for labs using various 3D printing methods such as Multi
Jet printing and FDM
Trixel Engineering specializes in manufacturing product line solutions, testing jigs and fixtures and more... One of the advantages of our 3D printing capabilities - accurate multi-jet printing and superior surface quality is the synergy of 3D printed part with other parts such as processed metal parts, cast metal parts or ceramic parts.
Laboratory device with components 3D printed with MJP and FDM technologies
We were asked to produce a laboratory test device for a medical start-up company. On the one side was a fixed laser that could be adjusted. The laser shot at a liquid solution and the beam was returned to a number of optical components for processing.
The requirement was for a device that will be mounted on an optical plate, so most of the device is made of Aluminum, but in some areas there were no high strength requirements, so we manufactured a number of 3D printing supports and fixtures.
Where there was a demand for high surface quality and great accuracy we printed parts with our MJP printer and where the parts needed less accuracy we used cheaper 3D FDM printer to reduce the overall cost for our customer.