1 of 3
3D printed injection mould for a diaphragm being removed from the Stratasys Objet350 Connex Multi-material 3D Printer.
2 of 3
CNC tool for diaphragm in back of Stratasys 3D printed tool. The functional prototype diaphragm in the foreground was made using Santoprene from the 3D printed injection mould.
3 of 3
Objet350 Connex Multi-material 3D Printer from Stratasys.
3D printing and traditional techniques such as injection moulding have been caricaturised as rival manufacturing technologies, but Stratasys has proved otherwise.
The 3D printing industry giant has helped one leading water and heating systems manufacturer to beat its cost and lead time predictions using additive manufacturing as a complementary technology.
Whale, which produces plumbing and climate control systems for mobile applications, succeeded in slashing its lead times for the production of injection mould tools for prototype parts by a whopping 97 per cent since introducing Stratasys 3D printing technology into its tooling process. Moreover, 3D printing has helped to shorten Whale's design process and product launch lead time by 20 per cent.
3D Technical Services at Whale Jim Sargent explained that the company is manufacturing injection mould tools in less than 24 hours using the Objet350 Connex Multi-material 3D Printer, at a snip of the cost of producing metal tools.
He said: "Traditionally, our lead times for metal tools were somewhere between four-five weeks and came with significant production costs. As a result, our R&D process was very time-consuming and fundamentally slowed down the launch of new products. With our Objet Connex 3D printer, we are now able to design our tools during the day, 3D print them overnight and test them the next morning with a range of end-product materials. The time and cost savings associated with this new tooling method are significant."
The injection mould tools are produced in Digital ABS which is a good material for low volume part production owing to its high temperature resistance and durability. Whale also offers its Rapid Prototyping Service to external customers, including automotive and aerospace industries, producing 3D-printed multi-material parts and tools using plastics such as polypropylene and polypropylene glass-filled.
Managing Director at Whale Patrick Hurst described 3D printing as "hugely revolutionary" for the company. "We have already seen the technology take months off of our product development process and that in turn minimises risk. In fact, I estimate that we've shortened our R&D process by up to 35 per cent with Stratasys 3D printing solutions. Add that on top of the 20 per cent we're already saving in terms of our design work – well for me, it’s fantastic."
Nadav Sella, Solutions Sales Manager at Stratasys concluded: "We are seeing an increasing number of customers exploring the potential that 3D printed injection mold tools offer. In addition to the dramatic cost and time savings potential, our Digital ABS tools enable companies to produce parts in the real end-product material, ready to test even in the prototyping phase. Our customers can therefore make quicker test iterations and bring products to market faster."