3D printing and additive manufacturing frontrunner Stratasys is leading the way in producing cutting edge technology that has the ability to dramatically reduce manufacturing lead times. Today the company announced consumer goods specialist, Unilever, has cut lead times for prototype parts by a staggering 40% since introducing Stratasys’ PolyJet 3D printing technology into its manufacturing process.
The company which encompasses key household brands such as Surf, Comfort, Hellmanns and Domestos, snapped up a Stratasys Objet500 Connex Multi-material 3D Production System to produce injection mould tools for its household care and laundry goods divisions. The company typically produces a run of around 50 units for a wide variety of prototype parts such as bottle caps and closures and toilet rim blocks.
Utilising 3D printed injection moulding tools, the company is now able to produce prototype parts in their final material for functional and consumer tests at a significantly faster rate than traditional tooling methods.
“Before, we would have to wait several weeks to receive prototype parts using our traditional tooling process; not only would this lengthen lead times, it would also increase costs if iterations were required,” explains Stefano Cademartiri, R&D, CAD and Prototyping Specialist at Unilever. “With 3D printing we’re now able to apply design iterations to the mould within a matter of hours, enabling us to produce prototype parts in final materials such as polypropylene, 40% faster than before.”
Printing injection mould tools in Digital ABS, chosen for its high temperature resistance and toughness, Unilever are able to maintain the quality of traditional manufacturing processes whilst operating at a higher temperature and reducing costs and turnaround time.
Unilever also houses a Stratasys FDM-based Fortus 360mc 3D Production System, to produce realistic thermoforming mould prototypes using ABS-M30 production-grade plastic that can endure functional testing environments.
Cademartiri, commented: “Since 3D printing these parts ourselves, we’ve reduced lead times in the conceptual phase by approximately 35%. The technology has enhanced our overall manufacturing process, allowing us to evaluate our designs quickly and eliminate those that are not suitable, before committing significant investment towards mass production.”
Nadav Sella, Senior Manager Manufacturing Tools at Stratasys, added: “With the development of some of our recent, more durable materials, our customers can now enjoy flexibility in their choice of methods to create their manufacturing tools and test designs in their final production materials, before investing in costly metal tools.”