As additive manufacturing (AM) has matured, it has gained new roles on the shop floor, well beyond its traditional role of prototyping. Additive technologies are playing an important role in the complete product development cycle – from prototyping to production. Colin Blain discusses enabling scale for digital manufacturers via an expanded materials portfolio
AM enables production for a wide variety of plastic and metal parts without the need for costly tooling. As a result, manufacturers are able to produce accurate, repeatable, durable end use parts.
What Is Figure 4?
The development of the Figure 4 platform from 3D Systems – now available in three configurations – enables manufacturers to rethink how they produce parts, and even allows the creation of new parts that could not be created via traditional methods.
Figure 4 Modular is a scalable platform that allows manufacturers to use up to 24 print engines, enabling them to increase capacity as their production needs grow. Each engine can run different materials and jobs simultaneously as part of a single, high-throughput line. It was designed to enable a true digital factory. As such, it includes automation options such as job management and queuing, material delivery, and centralised post-processing. With this solution, manufacturers can reduce demand on manufacturing resources and lower total cost of operation.
How Has Production Time Increased?
The platform is capable of producing parts with high surface quality and fidelity. It helps accelerate time-to-market with ultra-fast production (up to 100mm/hr) and six sigma accuracy and repeatability – enabling manufacturers to quickly iterate designs or produce end-use parts without regard to a minimum order quantity.
Midwest Prototyping, an AM service bureau in Wisconsin, USA incorporated the platform into its workflow and is realising many benefits. “The combination of Figure 4 Modular and the Figure 4 Tough-Gry 15 material allows us to produce very accurate, high fidelity parts in a matter of hours as compared to overnight with traditional processes,” explains Steve Grundahl, president and CEO. “With its automated material feed and job management, Figure 4 Modular is very easy to use, and one of the fastest technologies we have in-house. We can now build high fidelity parts with superior surface quality, and offer same-day delivery of parts with different materials. Our customers have been very happy with the part quality we delivered.”
Injection-moulded quality in additive manufacturing
For San Diego, USA-based D&K Engineering, the platform is replacing other traditional technologies, allowing it to decrease its development cycle, shorten time-to-market, and increase productivity. Chris Nicoll, D&K Engineering’s prototype lab manager says: “The quality of the final parts we are able to produce using Figure 4 Modular is excellent. Many of our engineers have commented, ‘this looks as good as a moulded part’ due to the excellent model conformity, surface finish and physical properties. We can instantaneously create prototype parts and small quantities of production parts, with injection-moulded quality.”
Beyond the innovative platform, what makes the Figure 4 technology so compelling is 3D Systems’ diverse and expanding range of robust, high-quality materials that are designed to address a variety of applications.
In today’s connected, competitive business environment, manufacturers must accelerate innovation in design and production to speed time-to-market, lower costs and transform workflows. Figure 4 Modular delivers 3D production at the scale needed with a range of materials designed for a variety of applications, without compromising speed, quality or cost.
Colin Blain is with 3D Systems