Additive Manufacturing, AM, is one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. today. AM includes many benefits such as faster production, more design freedom, and less waste generation compared to traditional technologies. AM, commonly known as 3D printing, has advanced rapidly in recent years and companies are more readily incorporating 3D printing into their manufacturing solutions. These technologies have historically been limited to 3D prototype printing due to the cost of equipment and scalability constraints. However, in recent years 3D printing has demonstrated its ability to perform full-scale production. 3D printers have shown they are able to manufacture low, medium, and even large-scale production volumes in some cases.
There is a long-standing myth that 3D printing is only suitable for 3D prototype printing and that additive manufacturing technologies are not suitable for production. However, due to recent advances in build rates and quality control, 3D printing for production is becoming more feasible for manufacturing processes worldwide. Over time, more manufacturers are viewing 3D printing as a viable option for producing quality parts in addition to quality prototypes. Additionally, industrial 3D printing has not only proven itself capable for production, it is competing with traditional manufacturing methods as a cost-effective solution for low, medium and even some large volume orders.
While 3D printers have demonstrated they are suitable for production, this technology is not a good fit for every production scenario. The product must be suitable for 3D printing – let me explain. Priorities and specifications differ significantly from application to application. For example, the degree of complexity and customization required by manufacturers has a very broad range. Part requirements such as intricate details and custom shaping are areas where 3D printing adds significant value and sets itself apart from traditional production methods such as machining or injection molding. Below are some manufacturing scenarios that make 3D printing the optimal solution for production.
· Combination of Technologies: 3D printing adds tremendous value to the manufacturing industry and is a cost-effective tool for OEMs. A combination of manufacturing technologies often achieves the best solution for customers. At PSI, 3D prototype printing is often used in conjunction with other manufacturing techniques to achieve an overall manufacturing strategy that is the most cost-effective for customers. The true potential for 3D printing for manufacturing lies in the new opportunities for innovation and creativity that it provides – and not what forms of manufacturing it will replace. An example is cast urethane molding. With the help of 3D prototype printing, the time and cost of the master pattern creation process can be reduced significantly compared to traditional metal machining methods. In fact, the turnaround time can be reduced from several weeks to a few days. By combining 3D prototype printing with traditional technologies, PSI is able to offer customers a faster and more cost-effective solution.
· High Complexity: the Achilles heel of traditional manufacturing like CNC machining and injection molding is part complexity – these technologies often struggle with extremely complex components and tooling fabrication costs quickly escalate as complexity increases. The good news is that complexity is free with 3D printing – making 3D printing is an excellent solution for production involving very complex parts.
· High Degree of Design Freedom: with 3D printers, designers can create new and innovative solutions without constraint. One of the big benefits of 3D printing is its ability to produce nearly any geometrical shape the designer can create as well as many surface textures that traditional manufacturing methods struggle with. 3D printing also provides unparalleled design freedom when it comes to materials including some plastics and metals that are specifically used for 3D printing technologies. In addition to design freedom, the quicker turnaround times that 3D prototype printing delivers enables designers to tweak and optimize the design repeatedly without spending more time on design iterations. This process often delivers a more optimized part design in the end as designers have the opportunity to rapidly create more prototypes without sacrificing the budget or delaying the project timeline.
· High Level of Customization: it is no secret that companies and consumers are wanting more and more product customization. 3D printing allows companies to design and manufacture endless levels of customization from the 3D prototype printing phase through production. Since 3D printing requires no equipment or tooling changes in between product runs, manufacturers can easily modify a design electronically to add additional customization with no lost production time – a win for both the customer and the manufacturer.
· Quick Time to Market: since 3D printers only needs a new CAD input in order to manufacture a new product and do not require retooling or machine changes, production can start right away. This leads to significant time savings and is one of the most well-known benefits of using 3D printing technologies. 3D printing also allows designers to combine parts to cut down on assembly time, further reducing the time to market. It is safe to say that 3D printing minimizes the time to market and increases the speed of delivery – and faster manufacturing results in happy customers and lower production costs. 3D printing is an excellent choice when a fast time to market and quick product changes are critical.
Looking for a polyurethane partner that is committed to utilizing state-of-the-art equipment and technologies?
Contact PSI to learn more about our custom urethane solutions including advanced technologies like 3D prototype printing.
PSI’s 3D Printing for Cast Urethane Molds
For over 50 years, PSI has created urethanes that are stronger, tougher and more durable than products made from conventional elastomers, plastics, and metals. During this time, PSI has been setting the industry standard in custom urethane products, staying on the cutting edge of advances in new materials, designs, and processing technologies. At PSI, we know that utilizing state-of-the-art equipment and technologies leads to better quality and flexibility for our customers.
PSI is always looking for opportunities to leverage the latest advancements. For example, our team now offers 3D prototype printing for cast urethane molding. Our 3D printed molds deliver faster turnaround times and are more cost-effective than traditional metal molding methods that require machining. Our 3D printed molds provide significant cost and schedule benefits to our customers. Our 3D prototype printing can create single and multi-cavity molds with finishing options available for parts that require a smooth finish. Contact our team today to learn more about our 3D prototype printing solutions for custom cast urethanes
About PSI Urethanes
Since 1966, through our own independent research and activity in the Polyurethane Manufacturers Association, PSI Urethanes has stayed on the leading edge of urethane technology – including developing advances in new materials, comprehensive designs, and processing technologies. Today we are among the most respected and trusted suppliers of custom urethane products.
We operate from our 45,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Austin, Texas, which houses an extensive stock of polyurethane products. Our fully equipped manufacturing facility includes a versatile range of processing machinery, which allows us to work on unique, one-of-a-kind projects, as well as high volume components. Our in-house engineering, tooling, and custom mold shop, produces custom and stock production orders with exceptionally fast turn-around times. From conception to prototyping, to final production runs, our technical representatives and design engineers will work closely with your staff to meet your critical tolerances and specifications. You are guaranteed to receive experienced, professional, and personalized service from the first contact through your on-time delivery, with complete confidentiality and dedication to protecting your good name.
PSI Urethanes specializes in custom urethane products. Contact us today to see how we can help with your next project, or give us a call at 1-800-888-5156.