Many companies will outsource the 3D printing of their rapid prototypes to service bureaus and other external subcontractors, which is obviously a lengthier process than printing them in-house. For example, ML System S.A. in Poland, which specializes in building-integrated photovoltaic solutions and heating systems, would typically have to wait up to two weeks to get their 3D printed parts delivered after they’d outsourced the job. But no longer—the company is now using 3D printers by Zortrax, another Polish company, in-house to create its range of innovative, green energy products.
“Rapid prototyping technologies in the industry enable engineers to quickly fabricate intricately designed components on demand and test the properties of various materials,” explained Michał Siemaszko, the Head of Research and Development Department at Zortrax. “The capability to use multiple different filaments that invariably comes with using the 3D printing technology allows to run diverse tests in-house which have powerful, positive impact on the quality of the final product.”
ML System used the Zortrax M300 Plus 3D printer, an upgraded version of the company’s M300. With a 300 x 300 x 300 mm build volume and advanced extruder, the plug and play printer is made for printing larger, high-quality models.
The products that ML System develops at its R&D facilities are eco-friendly alternatives to traditional construction materials, and as such, need a unique and innovative design approach, in addition to advanced manufacturing technologies, like 3D printing. One of the company’s latest products is HQ Glass, a smart glass solution powered by renewable energy that’s generated by the company’s photovoltaic panels, so that it can act as a primary heating system.
“HQ Glass is a modern thermal solution that allows you to completely eliminate a traditional heating system. It ensures comfort of warmth inside buildings and is 100% transparent,” the ML System website states.
“The integrated control system allows you to easily control the temperature. Regardless of the climate, it guarantees high heating efficiency.”
The heating surface with the HQ Glass is a transparent pane installed in a window frame, which uses a digital control panel to set a precise temperature. ML System’s R&D team used Zortrax M300 Plus 3D printers to prototype functional parts of the window frame for not only its HQ Glass, but also its glass laminate panes.
“While designing one of our innovative products – a free-standing heater based on the HQ Glass technology – 3D printing was necessary to design a casing that would be both functional and beautiful,” explained Paweł Kwaśnicki, a Deputy Director for Research and Technology Transfer at ML System. “With Zortrax M300 Plus 3D printers, we could print all the necessary parts in-house without outsourcing anything to external subcontractors. This approach enabled us to bring our prototyping costs down, reduce lead times, and avoid unexpected delays.”
While the original idea was to use PETG material for the prototypes, which the company already had in stock, the decision was eventually made to use strong, durable ABS filament instead.
“The main reason behind the switch was the geometry of the parts. We need to print multiple components for this project and, given how a window frame is built, some of them needed to be quite long and had to be assembled from multiple parts,” Krzysztof Misiak, an engineer at ML System, said in a Zortrax case study. “PET-G with its broad chemical resistance did not work well with epoxy resins we used to put the parts together. Switching to ABS solved that problem.”
By completing the 3D printing in-house, ML System was able to make its design process more efficient, as printing different iterations based on new designs took just a few hours, rather than two weeks. Zortrax 3D printers also enabled the company to improve its project management and prototyping cost optimization. By moving the 3D printing onsite, ML System managed to save up to 90% of the overall fabrication costs.
In addition to the window frame, which has been certified to IP6 water resistance, ML System also used 3D printing to prototype a free-standing HQ Glass heater, which can be placed in an elegant enclosure that looks nice inside while also performing the same efficient heating functions. Before it’s launched on the market, the company is putting the heater through the certification process.
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