SAF for thermoforming, Cargo Signal

SAF for Injection Molding & Thermoforming

Injection molding and vacuum thermoforming are longstanding techniques used to manufacture parts with customized design elements. But they are expensive and creating individual tools for each design adds a significant amount of time to the manufacturing cycle. This month we worked with two companies to show how SAF™ (Selective Absorption Fusion) can truly bring those costs and times down.

The first was with a large automotive manufacturer. We received two designs that would typically be turned into two separate tools for injection molding. But since these were short production runs, yielding around 200 parts per design, we decided to 3D print with SAF. With that, we were able to forgo tooling and knock down the costs by about 50% per part.

Replacing injection molding with SAF™ 3D printing is proving to be a very beneficial solution. SAF can reduce lead times from weeks to a couple of days. It can produce more complex geometries and can more directly adjust for part variations without the need to create an entirely new tool. It also completely eliminates the post-production need for tooling maintenance and storage. Each of these features add to the cost saving aspects of SAF.

The second company, in the transportation and logistics industry, was one that we have worked with for the past couple of years. They had initially come to us with a prototype design that we 3D printed a tool for, and thermoformed the final parts in ABS. We successfully completed many production runs from the thermoforming tool, pulling thousands of parts. But this year when we were able to show them the strength of the PA12 nylon, they opted to update their design to be produced with SAF, eliminating tooling, and reducing their overall costs by 4 times.

If you are ready to start your injection molding and thermoforming projects, contact us to talk about your options and see how SAF can save you time and money on your next production cycle.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

AI for 3D Printing

Artificial Intelligence works as a way for computerized systems to quickly retrieve and analyze data that can aid their current operations. It has since found an entry point into all modern industries, being adopted as a resource for advancing ideas and improving processes.

The same is true for 3D printing. CAD software used for programming and designing 3D models can require a steep learning curve and is subject to user error. Through machine learning, programmers are working to get to the point where CAD software could have set algorithms to be able to logically predict correct sequence settings while checking for inconsistencies and faults. This entryway into AI integration could prove to be a major point of improvement for additive manufacturing, not only because it would cut down on design and engineering, but also because it would save time in quality control checks.1

Quality assurance is a major fail-point for the manufacturing cycle. Businesses incorporate quality policies to check that parts a made according to industry and customer standards. This is a great place for AI to integrate in because “[it] can analyse the 3D model and continuously compare it to the ongoing print process, monitor essential parameters, and make quick adjustments on the fly to address any issues.”2

Although there are many ways to bring AI into the additive manufacturing world, it has not yet become a leading technology in the industry. Development has to be done on the ground floor of individual companies and producers – to find new ways to integrate AI practices into their processes. And more development of AI overall needs to happen to make it more accessible to everyday users.

1 Artificial Intelligence in Manufacturing
2 Hubs explores the impact of AI on 3D printing

Market Trends in 3D Printing and Opportunities for Your Business

Market research has shown that 3D printing is expected to have a global growth rate of 21% in the coming five years1. The market value of 3D printing in 2022 almost hit 20 billion, so what are the projected factors contributing to this steady growth rate?

3D printing has grown as a source of efficient manufacturing for multiple industries, including automotive and healthcare. It is also playing a role in education by being a hands-on resource for learning about manufacturing processes and concepts.

At 3D Composites we have seen the rise in industries reliability on 3D printing. The increase of small parts that we have printed for medical components, as well as automotive prototypes, has shown us that this trend is gaining momentum. The ability for our customers to have their custom designed parts made to industry standards has been the focal point at 3D Composites. More and more industries are seeing that 3D printed parts can be a lightweight, faster, and more cost-effective option without losing quality.

The forecast for 3D printing has taken their projections from the current major players in the market. Their breakdowns for 3D printing technology and processes include the preferred methods of 3D Composites. Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) has been a mainstay for our company. It is a proven process for aerospace and has a wide variety of materials that would work for any industry. Selective absorption fusion (SAF) combines the technology of powder bed fusion and certain binder jetting techniques2. It is a newer process, but it’s capability for producing structurally sound parts at a higher-volume has been an additive manufacturing game-changer in recent years.

Market Highlights at 3D Composites

3D Composites is a 3D printing service bureau that provides prototyping, tooling, and end-use parts for all industries. We are AS 9100 and ISO 9001 certified and use top of the line industrial printers and materials. Contact us to learn more about how to give your business the competitive advantage with a growing manufacturing technology.

1 3D Printing Market Trends… 2023-2028
2 SLS, SLA, or SAF? Comparing 3D printing methods

SLS, SLA, or SAF? Comparing 3D printing methods

There are many different 3D printing processes that have been developed in the last decade, and hundreds of materials along with them, each with their own benefits. So why does 3D Composites focus on FDM and SAF?

The difference lies in the materials.

Material properties are the first determining factor for any manufacturing process, and it is the same for 3D printing. Our mainstay printing method has been our FDM process that uses a variety of production-grade thermoplastics to print parts suitable for specified industries like aerospace and medical. The main material component in SAF is PA12, a nylon polymer, and is commonly used in a wide range of applications because of its high mechanical strength and durability.

Selective laser sintering (SLS) and stereolithography (SLA) are both methods of 3D printing that utilize lasers to bond or fuse material into a solid object. SLS uses a powder base material while SLA uses a liquid resin. Both the SLS and SLA methods share some similarities with our preferred process. Selective absorption fusion (SAF) combines the technology of powder bed fusion and certain binder jetting techniques to fuse powder together using infrared energy. Each of these three processes use bonding or fusion to create end-use parts, but we have found that SAF’s fusion technique is stronger, and the nylon polymer material has a wider set of capabilities than resin.

When you are ready to 3D print your parts, we can help make sure you are getting strong, high accuracy prints that are built to last. Connect with us today to get started!