3D Systems Taps Fine Blanking Market for Metal 3D Printing

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Additive manufacturing (AM) stalwart 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD) has announced that it will be partnering with Precision Resource, a company specializing in fine blanking, a manufacturing process combining extrusion and stamping to produce more precise stamped parts, often with fewer production steps than machining or other methods. Using two DMP Flex 350s, the company will manufacture key tooling components for fine blanking and other production processes, thereby accelerating production. Parts from these machines will be finished using 5-axis CNC and other processes in Huntington Beach, California. 3D Systems’ Application Innovation Group (AIG) enabled the company to get up to speed and develop this application more quickly.

The DMP Flex 350 is a single, dual, or triple laser 350 x 350 x 350 mm bidirectional recoating machine that uses M789 maraging steel, which is of particular interest for this application. The company notes that a better vacuum chamber design leads to smoother parts, which is also important for this application.

“We are excited to partner with 3D Systems, a company that shares our dedication to excellence and innovation This partnership allows us to leverage the latest advancements in metal additive manufacturing, further positioning Precision Resource at the forefront of technological progress. This expansion into metal additive printing underscores Precision Resource’s ongoing commitment to providing exceptional value to our clients, customers, partners, and stakeholders. As we embark on this exciting new chapter, we remain dedicated to our mission of excellence and continuous improvement,” said Chris Gratton, General Manager at Precision Resource.

“Manufacturing parts for high-criticality industries require precision without compromise. Companies focusing on these areas require constant innovation to meet the accuracy, speed, reliability, and productivity demands of increasingly complex production. Bringing together the industry-leading technology and applications expertise of 3D Systems and Precision Resource will deliver increased quality, improved total cost of ownership, reduced time to market, and minimized supply chain disruption. I’m looking forward to seeing how our collaboration can amplify and accelerate the potential of metal AM,” said Jeph Ruppert, Vice President of Technical Business Development at 3D Systems.

Fine blanking may not be widely known, but it is used extensively in the automotive, gun, tooling, and other industries for components such as transmission parts, knives, heatsinks, and switches. It is a high-volume process known for being repeatable, reliable, and affordable at scale. Unlike 3D printing, fine blanking is typically associated with high-volume production. It’s interesting to see 3D printing being utilized in this context.

Precision Resource has plants in China, Mexico, Slovenia, Germany, and across the US. The firm faces competition from China, and being close to the automotive and general industrial supply chain is crucial to their business economics. The process complements high-volume production of goods requiring a high degree of finishing, such as knives, or components assembled with a high degree of automation, such as guns and cars. Competitive pricing and strong customer relationships are key elements. Fine blanking is pervasive yet often unnoticed because the integration of finish and economics makes it a compelling proposition. In this market, a few cents can be significant, and a few weeks can feel like an eternity.

An example of a fine blanked component

The metal powder bed fusion systems would make the company more flexible and, more importantly, enable it to respond to customers more quickly. By accelerating lead times, the company could secure more deals. Additionally, there could be incremental improvements in the tooling components, enhancing their overall finish. This application has a lot of potential. Tooling applications, from die casting to stamping to injection molding and beyond, are particularly interesting. I really like what Mantle is doing and think more should be done to grow 3D printing in the tooling business.

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