The various forms of additive manufacturing i.e. 3D printing and rapid prototyping are revolutionizing how we manufacture items. From heavy duty industries such as aerospace, automotive, industrial, construction and medical services to consumer products; rapid prototyping is minimizing the number of steps required in the assembly line and getting world class, quality products made in no time. As a result, the number of rapid prototyping service providers is also increasing steadily.
ZARE SrL: A Success Story
Most service providers who specialize in rapid prototyping focus in only one sector of additive manufacturing such as metal sintering or FDM (fused deposition modeling). Italy based service provider ZARE SrL is unique in a sense that it offers specialized services in all areas of rapid prototyping. The firm began their business as a precision parts manufacturer in the mid 1960’s, based in Boretto in Italy. Their rapid prototyping services journey began in 2009, and today, it has a variety of technologies in additive manufacturing to offer which include direct metal laser sintering for any alloy of metal, FDM, selective laser sintering specially for products with a lot of small parts for assembly, stereolithography for high precision models and from master prototypes, vacuum casting.
The company provides a variety of services in rapid prototyping. Even a few years ago, their range of additive manufacturing services was not so extensive. Their initial technology was metal sintering, with which ZARE made giant monolithic prototypes. The company added more rapid prototyping technologies- lamination, reverse engineering and prototype surface finishing to their fleet in 2011. By incorporating some Fortus 3D production systems by the infamous Stratasys limited, ZARE expanded their operations greatly last year. The Research and Development manager for ZARE Andrea Pasquali opines that after there was a steady decline in the business of traditional manufacturing, the rapid prototyping systems have given the company an edge over their competitors, enabling them to decrease costs of manufacturing for their customers by fifty percent. She adds that rapid prototyping has been the main factor behind revitalizing their direct manufacturing business, allowing them to produce durable and high quality end user parts in the shortest possible time in final material. Pasquali comments that the 3D printing systems have greatly cut down cost per final part, shortened turnaround time and have significantly cut costs for iterations. These rapid prototyping systems are used for different purposes such as tooling, final part production and injection molding.
ZARE’s recent project involves making a 3D printed, function tested, FAA approved ULTEM 9085 pipe. This was made for a customer of the aerospace sector who demanded this pipe to be made out of this Stratasys made high performance thermoplastic. The ZARE engineers discovered much to their delight that the FST or flame, smoke and toxicity rating of the material ranked close to various metals, as well as its strength to weight ratio.
Pasquali further explains that if metal manufactured parts are replaced by parts made out of high performance thermoplastics, the customers from the aerospace sector can get the same performance out of materials that weigh a lot less. This not only reduces the overall weight of the craft, but also fulfils a necessary strength requirement when it comes to manufacturing aircrafts. Passenger safety requirements and production quality can also be maintained, a good example being the direct manufacturing of air conditioning ducts which are lightweight.
ZARE has seen a great increase in its business since their installation of rapid prototyping systems back in early 2015. Most of their clients come from aerospace and automotive manufacturing industries, accounting for about fifty percent of total customers. The company takes full advantage of the wide range of 3D printing materials available to find matches for the required characteristics that are necessary for traditionally manufactured parts, that too at a fraction of the cost and weight.
Pasquali notes that the company now prints their ordered car bumpers in acrylonitrile styrene acrylate (ASA) to take advantage of its high stability to UV rays. Headlights are being made in PC-ABS which combines the superior heat resistance and strength of PC and the unmatched flexibility of ABS thermoplastic.
Viewing it Large: Christie Digital Systems Canada Inc.
Large venues, theatres and arenas use high resolution displays for the best possible viewing experience for their audience. Reliability for these screens is of utmost importance as the show must go on. A leading manufacturing firm of these large projection displays is Christie Digital Systems, based in Canada. The company established its own in house rapid prototyping and testing laboratory, Hyphen, in order to optimize their product quality. The facility in Ontario is conducts various electrical and mechanical tests in order to identify the potential field failures in their systems.
Recently though, Hyphen has started to offer their rapid prototyping and testing services to businesses outside. They hence, greatly upgraded their rapid prototyping capabilities using Fortus 900mc 3D printing system. This production unit enables them to create durable and large parts, which are essential for functional prototyping, concept modeling, end use and factory tooling. Customers can now bring their products to the market quicker with the help of these rapid prototyping technologies.
The management at Hyphen is working closely with both small and large companies, educational institutions and inventors; according to managing director Mark Barfoot. The laboratory has helped Christie Digital Systems to make new connections in the industry and strengthen its role in leadership of the rapid prototyping industry.
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