MERRIMACK, N.H.—Two companies that serve as suppliers to rubber manufacturers believe that high precision 3D printing can change forever the way parts are made, while saving money and improving efficiencies in the process.
Earlier this year, 3D printer manufacturer Solidscape Inc. and LS Research's Design Studio announced a partnership that company officials believe serves as a disruptive new prototype processes that will speed time to market.
By combining Solidscape's high precision printing with LSR's silicone or metal mold making process, prototypes can be created in less than two weeks, compared to the typical five to six weeks needed to create most new plastic or metal parts, said Solidscape President Fabio Esposito.
“What we're doing is trying to push the boundaries of how parts are made,” he said. “There were several challenges we had to work through. In manufacturing environments, we feel that our printer is a critical component that provides significant value and return on investment.”
Printing at a resolution of 5,000 (x,y axis) x 8,000 (z axis) dots per inch, Merrimack-based Solidscape creates printed wax patterns that do not require hand finishing or manual work, which represents a significant time savings, Esposito said. The end product results in material properties that are 100 percent castable. The wax patterns then can be used for lost wax investment casting and mold making applications that provide high quality surface finish, accuracy and material castability.
The result, Esposito said, is a surface for complex geometries that have been very difficult to achieve with machined parts or traditional tooling methods.
“We wanted to see if the surface finish would be smooth enough, and if the silicone mold would work with overhangs and undercuts,” Esposito said. “But we also wanted to maintain the surface finish without the need for touchups.”
The prototyping experts at LSR—a wireless product development company headquartered in Cedarburg, Wis.—can go directly to silicon tooling or to cast metal parts without the traditional, tedious hand-finishing of rapid prototype parts.
“We compressed our product development process considerably on a recent program. We've gone from weeks of machining time and $4,000 per set of metal parts, to under two days and $200,” Jim Hollister, 3D Lab Manager at LSR, said in a statement. “This was earth-shaking for us as well as our customer.”