French company INFACO S.A. got its start in 1984 when founder Daniel Delmas invented the first electric scissors, which won the Golden Palm Award for Best Innovation the next year. Today, the inventor’s son Davy runs the international family-owned business, which is based in Cahuzac-sur-Vère in southwestern France and has designed, produced, and sold over 400,000 pruning shears in its nearly 40 years of business. But INFACO employees know that sometimes, innovating their products means relying on more modern technologies, such as 3D printing.
INFACO is the leader in the global market for electric pruning shears and other battery-powered, agricultural hand power tools. The company emphasizes in-house production, so its research and development team has to keep time-saving during product development a top priority. That’s why it employs more modern manufacturing processes when necessary. One recent example is using selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printing by top Swiss SLS solutions provider Sintratec.
“INFACO is a company with the label ‘origine France garantie’ – this means that our products are designed, tested and developed on our premises with mainly French components,” explained Valentin Vergnes, a prototyping technician who works at INFACO’s R&D office and is in charge of prototyping and testing.
“Thanks to additive technologies in particular, we can create complex prototypes very fast, test the designs and make changes before the pieces then go into production.”
The French company still relies on injection molding technology to produce its final plastic parts, but has adopted 3D printing as a very helpful rapid prototyping tool for its product development cycle. The technology is often used to create prototypes of shear casings, covers, and mounts in the INFACO test lab, but in order to achieve the necessary material properties for realistic field testing of its electric shears, a change in process was needed.
Vergnes explained, “We started with the FDM technology but quickly realized that we needed more resistant pieces that had properties similar to the injection molded parts.”
That’s why, at the beginning of this year, the company decided to shift its product development to SLS 3D printing, and invested in a modular Sintratec S2 system.
First introduced at formnext 2018, the industrial S2 can be expanded to fit a user’s specific needs, and integrates material preparation, 3D printing, and depowdering in a closed, semi-automatic system, consisting of the Laser Sintering Station (LSS), the Material Core Unit (MCU), and the Material Handling Station (MHS).
Vergnes continued, noting that “The mechanical properties of the PA12 material are ideal and by means of the Sintratec Polishing Station we can achieve a great surface finish.”
INFACO’s R&D team relied a lot on the Sintratec S2 to develop the F3020, the company’s latest electric scissors. According to Vergnes, it didn’t take long after the printer was installed to see just how beneficial SLS technology would be to the prototyping process for the 9th generation of the company’s shears.
“The assembly and all the plastic pieces of the F3020 were prototyped rapidly and only by means of the S2.”
The next generation design was tested, and adjustments were made, and now the F3020 electric scissors have been successfully launched on the commercial market.
“The Sintratec S2 is undoubtedly a great machine for us, delivering parts with great quality at an exceptional speed and thus allowing us to develop much faster at a lower cost,” Vergnes concluded.
“The Sintratec S2 delivers parts with great quality at an exceptional speed and allows us to develop much faster at a lower cost.”
In its market data for Q2 2022, SmarTech Analysis suggested that the 3D printing market achieved $6 billion in the first half of the year, and that as new AM opportunities continue to arise, especially in consumer goods and energy, the outlook remains positive for our industry.
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