Wehl & Partner is in the business of wowing their clients. Over decades, they’ve been responsible for meeting the prototyping needs of high-powered, world-renowned clients like Bosch, Airbus and Porsche. Their goal in serving the needs of such large companies has always been to remain on the cutting edge, employing new technologies, new materials, and new concepts.
Today, they find that they are able to meet the needs of clients much more expansively, thanks to additive manufacturing. The benefits of this technology are solid, and nearly every one of them is relevant to the services they provide, offering incredible customization options, speed in production and fast turnaround, high quality, independence in production, and one great bonus—a better bottom line.
Wehl & Partner, headquartered in Spain, has for many years, like everyone else, turned toward the most traditional processes for injection molding projects, and of course still use these methods in cases where hundreds or thousands of pieces need to be produced. Like many other companies around the world today, however, they’ve discovered it’s in everyone’s best interest to explore what 3D printing has to offer. And with this technology, they’ve been able to produce a metal tool that allows for lightning fast production and gives their clients the upper hand in taking products to market much faster than their competition, left befuddled in the marketplace dust.
Using SLA, the Spanish company tried numerous materials, but after evaluation of all of them, settled on Somos PerFORM as the best. This material was designed with excellence in prototyping in mind and is manufactured by DSM, a global life sciences and materials sciences company active in health, nutrition and materials. This company is a leader in making high-performance materials, so it only makes sense that companies like Wehl & Partner would end up turning to them for a product like Somos PerFORM.
With this product, tools can be made with very high strength and inserts can be heated on the tool for making parts in a variety of materials and ‘real injection conditions.’ Not surprisingly, Wehl & Partner did not find the same level of quality for their needs with materials like ABS, where temperature was an issue, along with reliability in quality and resolution of parts. A great benefit to using the Somos product is that strength is retained, along with accuracy, and customers are ensured production of complex parts with high resolution and intricate features.
“We tried creating the tool with digital printing (PolyJet) and stereolithography and the only technology that worked for the tooling application was SL with Somos PerFORM,” said Javier Garcia, CEO for Wehl & Partner Iberica. “Somos PerFORM is the only additive manufacturing polymer material where you can inject with real conditions with mold temperatures up to 120 degrees celsius.”
Success with this technology and materials is the culmination of two companies partnering and truly combining their expertise in understanding of the best materials to use, processes, and the art of design. This knowledge is crucial to retaining the life of a mold, which centers around what is injected into it. When injected with soft materials, the mold has a longer lifespan due to the milder materials; when using something like a glass-based material, the tool simply does not last as long.
“If the mold is designed properly, you can produce up to 40 to 50 parts using a thirty percent glass fiber filled material without problems,” said Garcia.
This is exciting news for the industrial front as Wehl & Partner is the first to make this tool using Somos PerFORM. In as little as just a few days, they are able to make real injection parts for testing purposes. This means they are working at a rate that is around seventy percent faster than they would have been able to with traditional methods—and to prove it, they have already fabricated 30 different molds in just less than a year. Their experience over this time has shown them that for complex molds that need to be made quickly, additive manufacturing is indeed the ticket.
“Our customers are delighted because you can send parts out in a few days. The process speeds up the process to one to two weeks versus five to seven weeks,” said Garcia. “This product and process combination buys you time. You are not buying parts, you are buying time.”
As a bonus, they are most definitely gaining access to new technology that allows for high quality tools to make end-use parts, the ability to approve designs quickly, and allow for new projects to begin more quickly as a result. Overall, the whole process lends to better products—and better business. Discuss in the 3D Printed Tools forum over at 3DPB.com.