3D Printing for Forming Tools
Using production-grade FDM thermoplastics, 3D printed metal forming tools can get you from tool design to production in as little as a week. Many tools can be 3D printed in less than 24 hours with no human intervention.
Custom Hydroforming with FDM Tooling
Hydroforming and rubber pad pressing use pressure to force sheet metal to take the form of a mold or die. These methods can produce complex curves and shapes as well as small undercuts. They are primarily used for low–volume manufacturing. They can also be utilized effectively for prototype and development work, repair parts, and one–off custom parts. For example, hydroforming and rubber pad pressing are used in the aerospace industry to form sheet metal into airframe or engine components. In the automotive industry, they are used to produce engine cradles, suspension components, radiator and instrument panel support beams and engine components. Military depots produce one–off replacements for the repair of damaged vehicles and aircraft.
Hydroforming and rubber pad pressing dies or form tools are traditionally produced using a variety of materials and methods. Challenges with these methods include shortages of skilled labor, long lead times due to a backlog at the Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine, high cost of raw materials, and high cost and lead times due to outsourcing. Stratasys 3D Production systems can help to alleviate these problems by producing Fused Deposition Modeling® (FDM) tools. FDM technology is an additive manufacturing process that builds plastic parts layer by layer, using data from CAD files.
FDM tools can help companies move from tool design to production in as little as a week. Many FDM tools can be completed in less than 24 hours with lights–out fabrication. Switching to FDM requires little change to current practices and procedures yet offers significant reductions in the time required to produce good parts. FDM reduces the cost for die production by 50% to 70% and reduces lead time by 60% to 80%. There is virtually no limit to the geometries that can be produced with FDM so it is often possible to implement design improvements in the end product. In fact, 3D Production Systems offer greater cost and lead time advantages with more complex and organically shaped parts when compared to CNC machining.
Stratasys offers several FDM materials for its line of 3D Production Systems that withstand the pressures required for hydroforming including acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) M30, polycarbonate (PC), and ULTEM 9085. The recommended forming pressure range for these materials is shown in the accompanying table. When dealing with rubber pad pressing, 3.0 inch (76.2 mm) tall FDM dies have been successfully cycled on 1000 ton presses using ULTEM 9085. Materials tested over FDM form blocks include aluminum alloys, stainless steels, titanium and nickel-based super alloys such as Inconel. Sheet thicknesses that have been formed successfully range from 0.016 inch to 0.100 inch (0.41 mm to 2.54 mm). These tools have lasted hundreds of cycles showing little to no signs of wear. In one case, a tool lasted 600 cycles without any problems. FDM tooling also offers a variety of other benefits. FDM tools are lighter and more ergonomic than traditional tooling, resulting in improved safety for the tool handlers and machine operators. Also, due to the natural porosity and lubricity of FDM, the number of cycles required to form trapped pockets can be greatly reduced and the need to lubricate sheet metal blanks can be eliminated. Further, the all digital process supports repeatable tool creation without need for an outside supplier and coordination of secondary tooling such as drill tools, trim tools and check fixtures. This makes it possible to potentially free up valuable storage space.
How does FDM Compare to Traditional Tooling Methods?
|CNC Machining||$1,500||5 days|
|FDM Tooling||$450||1 day|
|SAVINGS||$1,050 (70%)||4 days (80%)|
Tools Without Tooling
3D printed tools, molds and tool masters add a new layer of cost efficiency and flexibility to the factory floor. Not only can you cost-effectively produce tools for prototype testing and manufacturing low volumes of final parts, you can create made-to-order assembly tools customized for each task. In addition, you can create a leaner manufacturing environment, enabling quick production of tools, when and where they’re needed to speed the manufacturing process and reduce costs.
Optimized assembly tools, made to order
Improve manufacturing efficiency with job-specific jigs and assembly fixtures, 3D printed on demand in just hours. 3D printing tools directly from CAD data, on-demand, saves time, lowers costs and reduces inventory requirements. In addition, you can easily create customized lightweight, ergonomic tools that increase workflow efficiency.
3D printed Injection molds
Imagine producing injection molds without costly CNC tools. With Stratasys thermoplastics and photopolymers, you can quickly 3D print injection molds to evaluate prototype parts or produce low volumes of end use parts. This is especially useful to test the design, fit and function of products before mass production. If changes are required, new mold iterations can be 3D printed in just a few hours at minimal cost.
3D print customized, low volume durable parts with fine details and smooth surface finishes
Stratasys additive manufacturing enables you to 3D print strong, functional final parts on demand directly from CAD data. Because the part is created digitally layer by layer, complex geometries and sophisticated features that would be difficult to produce using traditional manufacturing methods are now easily achieved with Stratasys additive manufacturing. Producing end use parts with Stratasys technology not only dramatically reduces your production costs and delivery times, it also reduces inventory while creating exciting new supply chain efficiencies and new business models.