Less Process Steps
By its nature, 3D printing will be able to reduce the number of processes. A single print run can contain a part with different materials. This reduces the number of process steps.
Some products may have different materials in it. This could be because the hardness and porosity can be different in various areas. In such cases, traditional manufacturing will make these different materials in successive product runs. The parts are then assembled to get a final product. This would involve at least two process tools and an assembly.
Additive manufacturing has the ability to include more than 1 material in a product. The 3D printer has the ability to use different extruders for these materials. This results in a single composite product with no need for assembly.
Given below are examples of two such products.
Example 1 – Leveling Pad with metal screw on the bottom and soft plastic on top:
In this example, the metal screw is placed within a leveling pad in the middle of the process. The STL file has a built in “Pause” command. It pauses the job at the correct moment. The screw is then placed in the appropriate location by the operator. The job then resumes again.
The job also prints a hard plastic on the top and a soft plastic on the bottom of the pad for friction. Thus two different materials get printed in a single product run. A metal insert is also built into the product at the same time.
With traditional manufacturing, the product still needs one extrusion with insert molding. There is one more extrusion for the soft part. The two are then stuck together in a manual assembly process.
The printing process
3D printed leveling pad with metal screw insert
Example 2 – Castor wheel with 3 different materials:
A typical castor wheel needs 3 different materials in its construction. A very hard plastic that acts as an interface to the bearing. Most of the castor wheel consists of structural plastic which is hard. The outer surface of the castor is soft plastic to improve friction.
In traditional manufacturing, this will take 3 different extrusion processes and two assembly processes. With additive manufacturing, the whole castor wheel can be made in a single product run.
3d printed castor with 3 types of plastic