Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How Can You Use In-House 3D Printing to Work Smarter, Not Harder?

Today’s guest blog comes from Julie Reece, Z Corporation’s Director of Marketing Communications.

Last month I was in the UK for TCT Live 2011. During the show I had the privilege of listening to a presentation by Ben White, Sr. Product Design Engineer at Integra Products (UK manufacturer of window dressing solutions) about how Integra uses 3D printing, not only throughout the product design and development process, but also across the organization, to cut their design cycle by weeks and their product costs by thousands, and even ship greener products. Integra uses physical 3D printed models, example, to refine concepts, ensure fit and function, communicate effectively with partners, and quickly create mold patterns.

Integra previously used a service bureau for its prototypes, but they decided to invest in a Z Corp. 3D printer after realizing they could save time, money and rework by making their own prototypes in house versus using a service bureau. Integra now prints as many as 25 models overnight, rather than waiting as long as seven days for prototypes from the service bureau. They reduced prototyping costs by 85 to 90 percent compared to the service bureau’s fees for SLS prototypes.

White says,

“Our ZPrinter saves us time and money at every step. The biggest savings is getting things right before we invest in tooling. Instead of waiting 40 days for tooling and then seeing if we like our samples, our ZPrinter helps us ensure, before the fact, that our products are going to work, fit with adjacent components, and look great. That can eliminate errors that would otherwise cost us thousands of dollars.”

Integra’s use of ZPrinting includes:

Concept modeling – A powerful use of ZPrinting at Integra involves meeting with customers to refine designs and handing them a prototype reflecting the newest input. “Most of our customers haven’t seen this technology and don’t know that it exists,” said White. “It confirms our edge in technology and innovation, and embodies our mission to work smarter, not harder.”

Enhancing Communication Across the Company – ZPrinting’s quick turnaround helps Integra engineers convey information that doesn’t come across in their computer renderings. With 3D printed models, designers, marketers and salespeople can fully grasp the proportions between the finial (decorative pole end) and the curtain pole. ZPrinted models also more effectively depict complex shapes, such as decorative spheres, to manufacturing partners who can’t fully understand the intent from the digital drawings. Similarly, ZPrinting helps Integra designers ensure that seams and joints aren’t visible in the finished product.

Moldmaking – ZPrinting quickly creates molds for the rapid creation of silicon molds and quick patterns for sand casting. These capabilities cut the 10-week development cycle to four weeks.

Sustainability – In addition to saving time, money and errors in development, White’s team is finding ways to cut costs on actual product materials. “ZPrinting has enabled us to reduce material through extensive testing of prototypes,” White said. “As a result, a recently redesigned plastic curtain hook is now stronger and easier to use, while reducing consumer waste by 500 kilograms per year. ZPrinting is helping us to fulfill our responsibility of being a good neighbor while minimizing our carbon footprint.”

Watch video presentation about Integra’s use of 3D printing delivered by Ben White of Integra at TCT Live last month.


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