3D printing is at it again and this time the benefactor is a plastics manufacturer firm located in Denmark, Vilecon. The recent startups and companies are profoundly making use of 3D printing for manufacturing processes, however, established firms are transitioning rather gradually, taking their time and weighing the benefits of switching to 3D printing for their manufacturing process. 3D printing specialist PLM Group is Denmark based and it used its expertise to help out Vilecon for the optimization of the production of plastic components thus allowing Vilecon to revive a project that had been abandoned quite a while ago due to large manufacturing cost.
Vilecon works from Hillerød, Denmark and witnessing the 3D printing revolution taking place around the world, decided to consider 3D printing additive technology but wanted to first carry out a feasibility study. This is where the PLM Group comes in that was contacted in order to ensure that investing in a 3D printer would actually help out the business. The task PLM Group was assigned with was simple; to work out if 3D printing can be incorporated into the daily operations taking place at Vilecon and was it worthwhile if it was incorporated.
Representative from PLM Group visited Vilecon and spent some time checking out the firm and finally agreed that the firm could make use of 3D printing in order to manufacture economic yet high quality molds for the injection molded parts. The injection molded parts are capable of bringing some advantages to the table when compared with directly 3D printed alternatives; precise and smooth surface textures and increasing the range of available colors. Molding tools production however is a process that can be very expensive if conventional production approach is being utilized.
Andreas Vind, Support Specialist for Additive Manufacturing at PLM Group said, “This means that many good ideas end up in the drawer and development projects are often are discarded at an early stage. Furthermore, companies normally do not want to invest in an expensive metal tool for projects where only a few parts are needed.”
Vilecon is in luck because injection molding tools can be manufactured using a 3D printer. The technique employs a specialized technical plastic that can survive subjugation to temperatures of up to 350 degrees Celsius. Manufacturers are able to create parts in smaller batches thanks to the 3D printed tools without the need for locking up huge financial investments. For instance, ordering a conventionally made aluminum tool costs €11,000-12,000 and can take about a month for its production, whereas a 3D printed tool can be produced in only a day for a cost of under €500 – that’s over 95% price reduction.
Vilecon was able to enjoy these savings first-hand once it made use of 3D printer for the production of a tool for an abandoned project. The firm was previously working on a project that entailed the maintenance of Swedish churches. It designed an array of tiny electronic boxes that were slated to contain humidity and temperature sensors along with a SIM card module. These boxes would have been installed in churches and would have helped in monitoring and optimizing energy consumption. The project was abandoned because of the high cost of molding tool previously, but now it is out of the shelf thanks to 3D printing.
This has been achieved thanks to the support that has been provided by PLM Group. The company tested a few designs before it finalized the most suitable choice. The parts are being manufactured using a 3D printed tool and churches across Sweden will soon be able to cut down their electricity and gas bills radically.
Vind further said, “Throughout the process we have documented all the lessons learned. This goes about getting the part design ready for print, about the structure of the tool to get the success rate as high as possible, and last but not least: How to adjust the injection molding machine correctly to take into account that the mold is made from the special plastic material.”
Karsten Videbæk, Development Manager at Vilecon said, “It is a very exciting technology. During the process with PLM Group we learned a lot which convinced me that there are great future perspectives in the use of 3D printed tools in the plastics industry.”