To find a better alternative to injection moulding of an important and regularly used part, Alaska Guide Creations, a manufacturer of products built for the rugged wilderness, with its manufacturing partner Merit3D ended up creating a record of 3D printing 60000 parts in under eight hours.
We explore how it all happened.
Manufacturing is roughly a $12 trillion industry that largely takes place in China. Companies outsource their manufacturing activities to China in order to save costs but this is affecting the US economy.
As explained by Zac Jones, co-owner of Alaska Guide Creations, “We struggled to find a side-release buckle that would fit our needs with the tethers on our binocular pack. There just wasn’t anything out there we liked, so we designed our own custom hardware, which eliminated the need for an SR buckle. The only option to mass-produce something like that was injection molding, which takes months and you’d better have the design right the first time.”
Getting the design and subsequent tool right the first time is a rarity. Usually it takes a few design iterations and a few mould modifications before the product can go into production. This puts a lot of stress on employees and costs for the management. There had to be a better way to do it without sacrificing the part production and delivery commitments.
The Solution – 3D Printing 60000 Parts
Alaska Guide Creations decided to work with Merit3D to get the problem solved. Merit3D is an additive manufacturing company focused on supplying components to other manufacturers via 3D printing. It aims to bring manufacturing back to America one part at a time through advanced manufacturing methods.
Upon understanding the core issues with manufacturing of the SR buckle, Merit3D pitched Alaska Guide Creations to go try resin 3D printing of its parts. The resulting parts would have a smooth surface finish requiring minimal post-processing, would be produced in bulk quantities and will also deliver on its strength properties.
As Spencer Loveless, CEO of Merit3D explains it, “When we started exploring 3D Printing, we decided we had to meet the goals to make it into a viable business. We had to be cost-effective, have the right quality and the right scalability.”
Loveless added, “Completing 60,000 prints in under eight hours proves that we have the right scalability. The lessons we learned when we encountered issues during that eight hours were instrumental in streamlining our processes even further.”
3D printing 60000 parts in under eight hours and if the production had continued for the entire day, then around 200,000 parts would have been 3D printed.
This showcases the mass production capabilities of the technology. Though the parts were small but still the printer with a decent build volume of 510 x 280 x 350mm was able to churn out so many parts.
As the pieces were printed in the Merit3D facility, the company invited many local officials and business owners to come and witness the feat and talk about what incorporating 3D printing can mean to them and how it will help in bringing manufacturing to Southeastern Utah and its impact on area’s economy.
Price City Mayor Michael Kourianos stated, “Carbon County was founded on coal, that’s where it got its name, ‘Carbon’. Today, there is no coal being mined in Carbon County and that’s real. We have to keep the wheels moving for an industry like this that’s going to be sustainable in our community. You are bringing technical expertise to our community that can be used worldwide and that’s phenomenal. You are developing a career path that gives people hope and a clear vision.”
Merit3D used Photocentric’s Magna-Series LCD 3D printers. These are resin-based printers with a build volume of 510 x 280 x 350mm. Merit3D is constantly innovating to meet the demand of its broad customer base. One of its latest endeavours is electroplating 3D prints, adding strength and other properties of metal to plastic parts.
This case showcases the capabilities of 3D printing and how it is ever-evolving to rise from a simple prototyping technology to a mass producing technology. The feat of 3D printing 60000 parts in eight hours is quite a record and can prove to be the catalyst in more businesses exploring the potential of 3D printing for their production needs.
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