Thermoforming image

Reducing development time and cost on Master Pattern using 3D printed part.

Thermoforming is a reshaping manufacturing process wherein plastic sheets are melted to a flexible forming temperature, shaped to a mold with precise specified dimension to create usable product. Thermoforming process is used in packaging for almost all manufacturing industries. An integral aspect of the thermoforming procedure is the tooling, which isn’t generic and is specific to each part that is to be produced. Thermoforming with 3D printing technology helps organizations with time and cost balance.

Thermoforming process

A CNC also known as Computer Numeric Control (also Numeric Control) is a machine that works on software automation to produce controlled machined tools. A raw sheet of material (metal, plastic, wood, ceramic or composite) is altered to required and precise specifications under the absolute control of software programs and without any manual intervention. The system’s dynamic specifications are designed using CAD software, and then translated into manufacturing execution by computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software.

Now, one of our clients implemented thermoforming on CNC machined master pattern using wood molds. Divide by Zero Technologies has eased this whole process using thermoforming in 3D printing technology. With limited scope for errors and production changes, 3D printing allows manufactures to transfer ideas from drawing board to tangible parts quickly, leading to shorter turnaround time during prototyping stages. Also with the advent of 3D printing, organizations are blessed with the luxury of reducing their costs on the amount of storage space they need.

Our Client:

 Our client is a leading manufacturer of packaging machines to the pharmaceutical industries. Their products include high, medium and low speed blister packaging equipments alongside automatic cartoning & tube-filling machines. The company was facing challenges with prototyping parts for development time and manufacturing cost. They relied on CNC machines which ultimately proved time consuming.

Current Challenges:

The client initially produced wood molds for thermo morphing on CNC machine. This involved machining the wood to match the contours of the finished part and drilling holes so a vacuum could be drawn through the mold to pull the plastic sheet tightly against it. The client was facing challenges with production time and cost incurred.

  • CNC machining process are quite expensive. Although it requires less training for supervision and fewer employees than conventional ones, investment in installation and maintenance of these machines is quite high.
  • For each design it is mandatory to make three iterations. An iterative learning control method is widely used to adjust error compensated tool path wherein motion accuracy of three axis CNC machine is calibrated and thereby increased for better efficiency and accuracy.
  • Each mold would take around two to three days for machining. For parts with complicated and complex cuts, usually programmers first simulates the whole process to understand the machining time and then executes. This actually affects the overall production time which again incurs high cost.

Solution by Divide by Zero:

Divide by Zero used the AEQON400V3 3D printer model that mechanizes Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology which involves production-grade thermoplastics to produce rigid, strong, durable and dimensionally precise parts with no compromise on accuracy and repeatability of 3D printing technology. It is India’s first single extruder 3D printer with a unique gantry design for easy printing of mid size products. This additive manufacturing technology has a dynamic material range, low operation cost, no size restrictions and is highly affordable.

AEQON400’s low-noise operation, quick-load functionality, super-fast slicer and industrial-grade build quality ensure reliable print-cycles. With 2X deposition rate and 35% smaller footprints, the machine houses specially designed high precision ball screws gantry along with print speed upto 200mm/sec, this 3D printer delivers unmatched precision and repeatability – a prerequisite in rapid prototyping and low-volume batch manufacturing. Superior features like USB and Wi-Fi allow seamless connectivity and the built-in camera allows remote monitoring of print batches. With a unique build volume and an easy-to-use interface, the AEQON400V3 is an ideal prototyping machine for product development applications.

 

Comparative Analysis

 The company was able to reduce its prototyping time and cost, achieve higher dimensional accuracy and have provisions for fitment and functional testing.

  • Reducing production time: As compared to high production time wherein the mold alone took 2-3 days for machining, Divide by Zero with its fast and cost effective 3D printing AEQON400V3 model took the challenge to print the component in just around 14 hours.

 

  • Quality and Standard: Porosity in FDM parts eases thermoforming process with heat distribution segregated evenly which thereby provides more uniform vacuum that ultimately improves thermoformed part quality.

 

  • Cost Saving: One of the major benefits and value additions 3D printing offers is significant cost-saving. Cost of printed part was somewhat around Rs 750 hence, low batch manufacturing was possible using 3D printed part.

 

  • Faster time to Market: With FDM 3D printing, the time to prototype was reduced significantly. Products take lesser time for market implementation. Implementing a 3D printing setup offers great long term value and substantial ROI.

Conclusion:

FDM is widely employed 3D print technology for manufacturing 3D printed molds for vacuum forming. It allows printing in wide range of densities thereby resulting in a uniform vacuum to be drawn throughout the tool. Additionally, FDM 3D print machines have the fitness, ability and quality necessary for printing molds to a variety of long-lasting and heat resistant plastic that helps in durability and life of the mold. 3D printing has a placed marked impact in plastic thermoforming industry by having growing use in the fabrication of tool used in the industry such as molds. The technology’s automated manufacturing, use of readily available supplies along with fast pace designing and market implementation makes 3D printing time and cost effective solution. This technology is growing and in the years ahead it is expected to grow in its capacity usage.

Divide by Zero is a story of years of hard work and research, combined with a wealth of experience in development of engineering products & sustainable systems. Divide by Zero technologies focuses on continuous R&D to come up with new designs and concepts in existing product and its functionality and also on introducing higher end 3D Printing and other CNC technology.