Stacking: Additive Benefits for Successful Implementation, Part 1 –


When people develop new 3D printing applications, they often look for an advantage that additives have over conventional parts. We’re almost always more expensive than conventional manufacturing, and we’re definitely more complicated. To make it worth it, entire processes, products or manufacturing methods must be created specifically to usher in our technology. In many cases, the benefits of the additive are so compelling that any institutional resistance is swept away. Often, however, it is not so clear.

In many cases, convincing people to get into 3D printing with confusing or incomplete business cases is difficult. As a result, companies are struggling to implement 3D printing, and when we look at this, we can discern some major factors that are delaying or blocking implementations. One of those factors is that the business is going down a path it shouldn’t have taken. It is beating a dead horse or raising a white elephant. Either everyone knows something needs to be killed but no one wants to tell the boss, or everyone is in group think mode and no one realizes that the elephant cannot fulfill the collective dreams placed on them. high shoulders. We can, of course, mitigate failures or correct them midway through, but we can also avoid making mistakes.

One of the ways we can do this is to be more careful in selecting which parts, applications or industrializations to undertake in the first place. If we look at successful implementations of 3D printing, we can discern about five categories that have been very successful: small unique parts, disruptive parts, insertion process, bypass parts, and stacking.

Small unique pieces

Hearing aid shells in E-shell material created on a Perfactory printing platform. Image courtesy of EnvisionTEC.

The most successful example in this category is hearing aids. In ITE (in-ear) hearing aids, 3D printing has benefited hearing aid manufacturers by being cheaper to make unique, fitted hearing aids. The process for hearing aid stores was easy to manage and involved scanning a wax impression. For the user, the more comfortable hearing aid has improved their quality of life and overall experience with the product. Also, it allowed the company to differentiate itself, to produce on demand, to have a digital supply chain where the scan went to them, and then the hearing aid returned to the store. The software allowed for great automation while having a human in the loop avoided errors and meant that the electronics were optimally placed vis-à-vis the hull.

The cost of the hull part was very low. Manufacturing can be done by one person in the office. While there is still a bit of manual work, it is efficient enough to work well for this application. The strength of the material isn’t phenomenal, but it’s fine for this application, where a smooth fit and finish was paramount. In the ITE hearing aid industry, an early advance for some led to wider adoption, and in a short time other methods of manufacturing were wiped out, and 3D printing dominated this industry. In short, we can conclude that for small mass custom devices that fit the body, there is a great business case for 3D printing if the materials can perform and the cost is right.

Disruptive parts

3D printed dental aligners.

3D printed dental aligners. Image courtesy of SprintRay.

The best example here is Invisalign, where a new way of seeing tooth correction was only possible thanks to 3D printing. Around 240,000 Invisalign molds are 3D printed every day and then thermoformed to make silicone inserts. This has been going on for years without the adoption of direct silicone 3D printing or without trying to get a 3D printed resin into people’s mouths. These two factors, in my opinion, may have jeopardized and delayed the implementation by someone else. Nonetheless, Invisalign has overtaken the existing orthodontic appliance industry and is now a $ 2.4 billion revenue company with a host of companies quickly following. Invisalign has been successful because a unique geometry can be created that is safe and comfortable to wear. Looking at the user’s experience and comfort, a new way to correct teeth has become an extremely disruptive activity.

Detached pieces

The best example is HPThe fiber mold tooling solution. In this case, a polymer MJF molding tool can be produced quickly for fiber packaging companies. This tool outperforms its conventional counterparts because the throughput through it is better. It can also lead to reduced downtime by being faster to design and tool manufacturing can also be cheaper and faster for customers to implement. By providing customers with greater flexibility, the tool can also cause them to react faster to a tool failure or onboard a customer faster, or to be more competitive because lead times are shorter. This multitude of business advantages is compounded by the fact that the tool is cheap and easy to implement. Operation is simple and the tool can simply be put down instead of the conventional tool. No 3D design, no DFAM, no purchase of 3D printers, just cost effective service to make money easier for the customer. This approach drastically reduces the cost and time of adoption of additives in the industry and, in my opinion, should be the norm.

Side step pieces

A carbon fiber polyamide jig manufactured by Stratasys.

A carbon fiber polyamide jig manufactured by Stratasys. Image courtesy of Stratasys.

The best example here is the jigs and fixtures. Obtaining automotive additives is a nightmare. Negotiations take years; they are aggressive in terms of price, need a lot of volume, and have high standards. There are a lot of legwork and checkboxes to provide them. And then you often join some sort of lost herd of vendors fighting to work together to make it all work. Safety standards are high; they are used to much higher uptime and much more reliable machines as well. Approaching the automobile directly is therefore a nightmare in which you can walk for seven years.

Meanwhile, Hans tells Dieter; I can do one on my Ultimaker. He designs and prints it and brings the light to the office. The team uses it, loves it, saves them time, saves them money, the boss loves it and she buys one. The virus is therefore spreading in the company. See how easy it is; it is almost a path of least resistance.

In the next article, we’ll talk about stacking.


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