Additive manufacturing, rapid prototyping and 3D printing are huge buzzwords in the industrial hub today due to the time reduced, money saved and accuracy achieved through these technologies. Different industries such as automotive, medical, aerospace etc. are reaping the benefits of rapid prototyping in order to manufacture better, more accurate parts- even entire cars and airplanes!
Rapid prototyping can also be used for manufacturing home appliances that eliminates the traditional assembly line based production, leaving room for customization of home appliances just the way the clients want it. These requirement specific orders are best handled through 3D printing and rapid prototyping as at any point in the production life cycle, any kind of altercation can be done to the product. One such rapid prototyping success when it comes to home appliances is the ChillHub by FirstBuild. It looks like a run on the mill refrigerator on the outside. However it comes with cool stuff on the inside like wifi connectivity and two USB hubs that can be plugged in to get control of the refrigerator’s components. Success stories like this are making more and more companies keen on developing 3D printed home appliances.
In this post, we take a closer look inside the development of home appliances through different stages of rapid prototyping.
Metal Rapid Prototyping for Appliances
During the stage of rapid prototyping in manufacture of appliances, the key points to keep in mind in order to successfully iterate a new product are quick turnaround times for small batch and low cost production runs. As traditionally used methods such as die stamping or die casting can only be cost effective for bulk production, more and more engineers prefer to use metal prototyping due to these demands. Various new developments in rapid prototyping technologies have made metal a preferable and viable material for this purpose.
Currently there are six new technologies that allow the prototyping of appliances in order to create cheaper and faster prototypes in small sections. Out of these, three methods of casting can be used in case of metal prototypes. These are as follows-
Aside from different forms of casting, prototypes can be made through two other technologies.
This process produces parts directly from stock metal. This was only used for large volumes of production runs as it was a bit too expensive both time and finance wise, for rapid prototyping. However, 3D CAD designs can now be converted into toolpaths for these machining equipments. Hence the cost and time have both been reduced greatly. Machining is now a viable option for rapid prototyping of home appliances especially when it is important to match the functionality of a final die stamped or die cast part.
Using Plastic: Polymer Prototyping
A great and practical alternative to make prototypes is plastic. Many prototypes for lighting can be made entirely out of metal or glass. However as there have been new advances in heat resistance and transparency of plastic, the functional prototypes for lighting can now be made using plastics and polymers. In order to keep the costs at a minimal, plastic is often used for creation of metal parts and models. However, many difficulties can be caused while replicating the appliance’s true function and the manufacturability of the parts made of metal.
It was impossible to replicate the transparency of glass and the heat resistant property of metal by using plastic. This made plastics practically useless for producing lighting prototypes for manufacturing of appliances. Some new developments in the quality of plastic manufacture have made them almost equal to or better than glass and metal when it comes to manufacturing a lighting prototype. LED lights these days have lower heat emission than traditional lights, hence the need for metal and glass prototypes have been reduced greatly. Some properties of plastic that are contributing to this are-
Using these rapid prototyping methods, home appliances can easily for the most part be manufactured for the homes of the future.
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