Question: Job Shop Applications for non-metal Additive Machine?
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  1. #1
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    Default Question: Job Shop Applications for non-metal Additive Machine?

    One of the things I'm always on the look for is ways to justify new technology to bring in to the company. I'm not counting on much in the way of contracted print jobs because I don't know what that would be like - and I don't know that we could compete much with current mass suppliers unless we wanted to bill it at break-even just to keep it busier and maybe open the door to new customers to machine their parts.

    Completely honest; some of my motivation is "keeping up with the Jones'" which is rarely money-wise, and some motivation is because it's personally interesting/exciting to me, and I like learning and experimenting with new things. All things in business must be fiscally wise, so I make sure to do my homework before submitting budget requests.

    What I'd like to know is how some of you see a non-metallic additive machine helping a job shop. Frequent customer-industries served: Medical, Aerospace, Tool/Die, Power, Transportation, Laser components... lot of variety.

    Workholding: For castings, it seems like they'd make for some great fixture devices. Soft jaws can definitely be whipped up overnight for hot jobs, keeping the machine spindles making chips on billable work.

    Discounting miscellaneous "knick knacks" around the shop, what practical applications can you see having such a machine around?

    Note: I'm only specifying non-metal to keep the costs down as a first-machine purchase to test the waters. If there are extraordinary applications for DMLS parts then I'd be all ears. DMLS parts would also be more likely to be direct customer production, as well.

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    At the last job we had a small machine we used to print woodworking jigs. Don't remember brand of machine now, but the holes were close enough we were able to press in drill bushings 'as is', without having to bore/ream the holes on a vmc or bridgeport. We also printed vacuum fans for woodworking machines that would go on the end of holder that as they spun they sucked up the wood dust off the part to make it more visible to see what you were doing. It did not actually vacuum the dust into a container, just kept the immediate area clean. These too were a close enough fit the only machining needed was to tap a hole to clamp the fan around body of tool.

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    Mostly, it´s a non starter.
    Imho.

    They can make weak poor plastic parts, of not much accuracy, very slowly, in relatively expensive material.
    Unattended, once dialed in, yes.
    Complex, yes.
    So complex parts of that type, if needed, would be a good fit.
    Something hard to do traditionally.

    BUT...
    Any capable fabricator or machinist can usually do much better, in 1/5 - 1/100 the time, in steel, and epoxy glue.
    It will look better, be faster to make, and cost 1/10 in materials.

    All the real useful stuff is the realm of the very high end stuff.
    And still slow, and complex, and Very High Cost.
    The rocket nozzles for SpaceX are probably 1M$ per piece.

    It is, I think, mostly cheaper and faster and stronger to laminate n items of traditionally made stuff, than 3D print them.
    If looks, accuracy, use, are important.

    Really clever uses I read about were, for example, way wipers for old MT stuff.
    Makes sense.
    But I don´t see that type of use scaling up, ever.

    Knobs, buttons, handles for "try this" stuff .. but traditional manufacturing is vastly faster/better cheaper.

    I just don´t think that 3D printing, now, is any good.
    And I am not against the technology, any technology.

    I am very much a realist who wants the $ argument made.

    A fairly basic 4d lathe with live tooling will knock out any knob/handle/bit in small size for 2-20$ if its yours.
    In any material you want, at 1/2-1/3 cost of 3d printing in material.
    About 1/10 - 1/100 of the time.
    About 10x-100x better surface finish, strength, accuracy, usability.

    Or any mill, with good sw, unless complex undercuts are essential.


    My thinking, positive:
    In the not-near future, better 3D printers might make much better basic materials like billets, flats, sheet, oblongs etc. very cheaply, using complex honeycomb materials.

    These might use things like spheroids (crush), lattices, inserts, all coated with exotic composites, metal powders or liquids, etc.
    Thus extremely strong, or light, or rigid objects might become cheap and commonly used.
    That is where 3D printing has a big future.
    Large-scale production of basic material, at dirt-cheap cost.

    Example.
    A metal beam for house, bridge, space shuttle, machine tool frame, whatever.
    All want strong, rigid, non-puncture-sensitive materials in great quantity.

    Potentially, a foamed-metal type beam has 1/10-1/50 the mass, and 80% the strength, and possibly more strength, than a solid metal steel beam.
    If the beam has crush-resistant spheroids, is mostly air (90% ?), and a very slightly larger cross section (or not), it might fulfill all above criteria.
    The beam might also be (much ?) cheaper than the solid metal beam.

    Potentially, chemicals and plastics are much cheaper than metal, and tooling costs are near zero in large scale continuous production.

    If I wanted to make a fortune in 3D printing, I would make products to fulfill above criteria.
    Deal with large housing corporations (Toll brothers), major industrial constructors (Siemens, Fluor), major materials producers like the steel/alu giants, etc.

    I would think about gigaton/yr materials costs, similar to concrete/sand/steel use today.

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    I'm not confining myself to $1,000 FDM/FFF printers. SLS is not out of the question - there are quite impressive nylons, and the quality of the product is an order of magnitude better than the best you can expect from FDM, in my experience.

    Yes, a lathe, mill, or toolmaker could do a better job. Could do it faster. Would also require a well-paid person to set it up, program it, run it, and finish it, while also occupying a machine whose spindle should be cutting chips we get paid to cut. I am of the mind that any additive machine we acquire would be for 'overhead' tasks, at least at first.

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    Not sure of the exact model, but we have one of these where I work now.

    Fortus 38mc and 45mc 3D Printers | FDM | Production Series | Stratasys

    We make (made? not in the same building anymore) some tools that are application specific for our industry.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike1974 View Post
    Not sure of the exact model, but we have one of these where I work now.

    Fortus 38mc and 45mc 3D Printers | FDM | Production Series | Stratasys

    We make (made? not in the same building anymore) some tools that are application specific for our industry.
    We've contracted out several jobs that were made from Nylon 12 and I was quite impressed with that specific material. They were made via SLS though. Probably had a lot to do with the quality of size and form. The spec sheet on that material was pretty impressive, too, I thought. Seeing the one model can make Ultem types is interesting, though I don't recognize those numbers. Might have to look those up.

    I think I might just need to put together a quick price list, speak briefly on the pros/cons of each, mention the opportunity value, anticipated opportunities, and potential opportunities the machine presents... then let TPTB decide.

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    I worked for a medical manufacturer a while back. Almost 200 CNC machines, most Swiss style screw machines in cells. We bought a 3D printer with some ideas in mind and it ended up being used mostly for custom jigs, fixtures for gauging production parts, custom tool holders for outside the machine. Every cell/machine had unique tools and wrenches. These also held packs of inserts, extra endmills and other cutting tools. As a big 5S shop, this was a deal breaker for efficiency and productivity. Think about it.

    A lot of our parts were checked in optical comparators using transparency gauging. We built hundreds of jigs to hold parts in place while checking, a huge time saver. Whatever your mind can imagine can be designed in CAD and printed. Square pockets for boxes of inserts. Shapes to hold custom tools and wrenches. And so on..... One of the best machine purchases we made.

    Paul

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    Quote Originally Posted by LockNut View Post
    I worked for a medical manufacturer a while back. Almost 200 CNC machines, most Swiss style screw machines in cells. We bought a 3D printer with some ideas in mind and it ended up being used mostly for custom jigs, fixtures for gauging production parts, custom tool holders for outside the machine. Every cell/machine had unique tools and wrenches. These also held packs of inserts, extra endmills and other cutting tools. As a big 5S shop, this was a deal breaker for efficiency and productivity. Think about it.

    A lot of our parts were checked in optical comparators using transparency gauging. We built hundreds of jigs to hold parts in place while checking, a huge time saver. Whatever your mind can imagine can be designed in CAD and printed. Square pockets for boxes of inserts. Shapes to hold custom tools and wrenches. And so on..... One of the best machine purchases we made.

    Paul
    I didn't think about the "5S" organizational /place for everything, everything in its place/ aspect. That'll keep me busy making or sorts of boring shit *snore* though it will benefit those with a stake in that game. There's also personal pride in streamlining a process to help someone be better/faster at their job (makes us both look better, as well as money making) so I'm not completely shitting on the 5S thing. It's just boring work modeling and making 'boxes' - even 'shadowboxes'. You make a real good point I had not considered - thank you! We have a guy here who is completely re-doing our tooling area. We don't have a tool crib attendant and are hesitant to just hire someone to do it. I've made some doodads at home on my 3d printer to help him with organization and label holding. Made some CAT40/CAT50 grommets to hold the toolholders on the racks I waterjet out of steel, with a label-holder for ID and 'data' of the tool in it. There's a lot left to improve, though.


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