RV Supplier Elevates Production with Large-format Pellet 3D Printing


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In an exciting development for thermoforming mold production, Icon Technologies Limited, a manufacturer of RV components, has integrated one of 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD) pellet 3D printers into its operations. The anticipated strategic move will substantially cut lead times and reduce the costs of mold production.

Based in Manitoba, Canada, Icon Technologies has carved a niche for itself by providing custom thermoformed solutions for recreational vehicles. Their product range for RVs is extensive. It encompasses kitchen and bathroom essentials such as sinks, bathtubs, and toilets. They also offer exterior and functional components like fender skirts, fresh water tanks, skylights, and RV air conditioner shrouds. Their decision to bring 3D Systems’ EXT 1270 Titan Pellet 3D printer on board makes them the first manufacturer in Canada to do so.

John Loewen, the founder and CEO of Icon Technologies, shared his insights on this significant move, “With the breadth of industries we serve and the large molds we produce, it’s imperative that we maximize our productivity. 3D Systems’ EXT Titan Pellet 3D printer is the best solution to help us provide high-quality products to our customers. The combination of build volume, industrial engineering, economical feedstocks, and the heated chamber, along with materials that have been validated for thermoforming applications, stand out above other large format printers.”

He also added that a visit to the 3D Systems manufacturing facility solidified his belief in the product. Observing the thorough quality assurance (QA) process, the vast projects handled by the application engineering team, and the detail-oriented manufacturing line reassured him of the enormous potential the EXT Titan Pellet held.

What Makes the EXT 1270 Titan Pellet stand out is that it’s engineered to employ economical thermoplastic pellet feedstocks, and its vast print volumes can accommodate even the largest thermoforming tools. Its compatibility with diverse nozzle sizes is a unique feature, allowing it to print finer layers than many competitors. This precision minimizes, and often eliminates, the need for post-machining. What’s more, when the situation demands even higher precision, the in-built spindle tool head ensures a flawless, precise surface without requiring a separate CNC machine.

Compared to traditional methods, the 3D printed molds using the Titan Pellet are substantially more cost-effective, with up to 88% raw material cost savings. The time efficiency is just as impressive, boasting up to a 65% reduction in lead time. Plus, with materials like glass-filled polycarbonate, the endurance of these molds is great, enduring well over 1,000 uses with negligible wear.

Venturing ahead, Brad Mount, the global director of business development for Titan at 3D Systems, echoed the sentiments of many when he expressed excitement about this collaboration: “Icon has long-standing customer relationships and is highly regarded for delivering high-quality molds. As the first manufacturer in Canada to add an EXT 1270 Titan Pellet 3D printer to their manufacturing workflow, they are demonstrating their commitment to continuous innovation while also paving the way for their customers to transform their businesses.”

He praised Icon’s commitment to continuous innovation. He emphasized the company’s readiness to support Icon’s endeavors. This support comes both via the Application Innovation Group, which validates materials and print processes for Icon’s applications, and its expansive global support network.

3D Systems offers its largest printer, the EXT 1270 Titan Pellet (formerly Titan Atlas 3.6), as a standard with a single pellet extruder. However, customers can customize it with up to three tool heads, including a second pellet extruder, a filament extruder, and a three-axis milling spindle. Many consider this machine the go-to solution for large-scale part manufacturing, from tooling and patterns to end-use products. The machine excels in producing functional, high-performance parts for industries like foundry, automotive, aerospace and defense, and consumer products.

A prevalent method for molding thermoplastic sheets into diverse products, thermoforming holds a deep-rooted history dating back to the early 1900s. Its prominence grew during World War II due to a demand for lightweight, cost-effective manufacturing. Today, the method is embraced by industries from automotive to medical. It melds tradition with cutting-edge technologies like automation, robotics, and 3D printing, highlighting its ongoing relevance in modern manufacturing.

The synergy between Icon Technologies and 3D Systems represents a progressive step in manufacturing. It blends the time-honored practice of thermoforming with 3D printing technology. This partnership promises not only advancements in efficiency and cost-effectiveness but also sets a precedent for how industries might evolve and adapt in an increasingly digitalized world.

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