While it’s widely believed that 3D printing is the future of manufacturing, the change doesn’t happen overnight. More and more, we’re hearing about companies that are slowly phasing out older technologies in favor of 3D printing. The Popp Group, a German design and manufacturing company, has been integrating 3D printing technology into their designs for a while to reduce costs and production time. Today they announced in a press release that they have been using an X400 3D printer from GermanRepRap with increasing frequency, particularly for designing medical equipment prototypes.
The X400, the company says, was extremely useful in a recent project that involved the manufacture of components for a patient table to be used in MRI scanning. Specifically, they needed to create a winding body for a rotating device that would later be fitted onto the patient table. The design required the accommodation of the fixing and assembly components of the device, as well as the cover. Ultimately, the end product would be produced by injection molding, but the entire prototyping process was done with the X400 printer.
“Only when we are certain that no more modifications are required do we create the expensive injection mold,” said Rene Schneider, who oversaw the project. “Up to that time, we do everything with 3D printing. Any faults or changes required by the customer are easy to rectify and implement.”
Like most companies that have been integrating 3D printing into their manufacturing processes, the Popp Group says that they are particularly pleased with how the technology has sped up the prototyping process. The winding body took about ten to twelve hours to print, as opposed to waiting several days for CNC milled parts that would previously have been required.
The X400’s build area of 40 x 40 cm also allows for three parts to be printed at one time. 3D printing, Popp adds, is also ideal because of its capability to create a prototype that has not only the same mechanical and functional qualities as the end product, but the same material properties as well, which is a requirement when prototyping medical equipment.
“The PLA frequently used in 3D printing is ideal here for medical technology since it is non-imaging and is not therefore shown in an MRI scan,” said Schneider.
While the Popp Group has been using 3D printing as part of their manufacturing process for a while, they have adopted the X400 as their printer of choice due to its price-performance ratio and its ability to print several prototypes at one time. Customers appreciate 3D printing as well, they add, because the company can more easily keep them in the loop by sharing the files and allowing them to make changes at any time during the prototyping process. With the added efficiency and cost reduction that the X400 provides, it looks as though 3D printing will continue to grow within the company.
“3D printing has become firmly established in product development at the Popp Group,” said Schneider. “Our X400 3D printer runs at full capacity.”
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