March 6, 2018
The evolution of the desktop 3D printer has seen a distinct transition from the “need to have” tool of the Maker to an indispensable asset for the small to medium size additive manufacturer. Two such examples are Pacific Bay International and Chaparral Boats. These manufacturers have integrated desktop 3D printing into their operations to produce the best in quality water recreational products for the consumer.
Engineers at small companies have long seen and experienced the benefits of desktop 3D printing in accelerating product development. From proof of concept, to prototyping, to preparation for final tooling, desktop 3D printers and the iterative process has compressed the product development cycle. What previously took weeks to months can now be accomplished in days. Product development costs have also plummeted since successive iterations of expensive tooling can be avoided.
However, It is only recently that the extensive use of desktop 3D printing has come into full view. Desktop 3D printing is fast becoming a decision making support tool where collaboration, experimentation, and co-creation is freely explored. Production engineers have migrated 3D printing capabilities further downstream either into direct production or in support of production activities. This has allowed production engineers to experiment with modular layouts, alternative processes, and on-demand scalable throughput. Much of this is accomplished “on the fly” with minimal to no investment.
The desktop 3D printing stories of Pacific Bay International and Chaparral Boats highlight what it means to be a modern, nimble manufacturer in the competitive global marketplace. Each story is unique but shares a common thread of how to effectively introduce 3D printing technologies to alter and augment the manufacturing process. Minimal investments in desktop 3D printing have resulted in huge savings both in time and money. Join us to discover how desktop 3D printing has impacted these manufacturers.
Justin Brooks started at Chaparral Boats by writing code for the robot on the manufacturing floor. In order to interface with the robot and to understand how it was being used, Justin needed to learn and understand the Siemens NX11 product engineering software tool. This tool provides the basis to understand the entire production process and how best to simulate layouts for production runs. There was also the challenge of bringing these simulated layouts to life.
Justin explains; “Like most manufacturers, we understood the importance of desktop 3D printing on upstream functions such as design and prototyping. It is only recently where we have recognized the full capabilities of the technology in downstream functions. We started using desktop 3D printing to produce jigs, patterns, and fixtures for the robot to save time and money in tooling and fabrication costs. Now we go so far as to print stand-ins of smaller parts to check fit and modifications for manufacture with the end goal of creating molds after finishing.”
To accomplish all these tasks, Justin needed to “up his game” on the hardware side. Starting with a base 3DP 1000 Workbench platform, he upgraded the hotend and extruder assemblies by adding an E3D HotEnd, E3D Volcano Nozzles and a Bondtech QR Universal Extruder. These components augment the capabilities of the 3DP 1000 Workbench printer and provide a reliable and consistent performance over the printer’s large footprint area (1000mm x 1000mm x 500mm).
Other uses of desktop 3D printing technology are in the production of 1:12 scale models for the customer. According to Justin, “We produce the scale models to get a feel for how the end product will integrate with customer preferences and tastes.” On the planning side, Chaparral Boats is exploring the use of scanning to develop new models and to make digital models of legacy components. “We are now utilizing scanning technologies for parts and holding fixtures that will be introduced into CAD so companion and additional parts may be modeled. These items will be printed as new or replacement items in future iterations.”
Pacific Bay International is a manufacturer and direct importer of fishing rod components for wholesalers, retailers, and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) of fishing related products worldwide. Their products include an integrated line of rod blanks, reel seats, guides, grips, and hardware designed for creating beautiful fishing rods. Recently, Pacific Bay International introduced desktop 3D printing to assist in the design and prototype of grips and reel mounts for fishing rods.
What started out as a hobby for Vic Cutter, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, and Jeff Price, Operations Support, quickly mushroomed into an essential tool for the design and creation of new products. Vic explains his start with 3D printing. “I have always been involved with the fishing tackle supply business. I previously saw 3D printers in action at a Maker Faire and became interested in 3D printing as a hobby. Jeff built an OpenBeam Kossel delta printer from scratch and I made a SeeMeCNC Rostock from a kit. I started using it at home to see if it could assist us in trying out new designs and materials for our products. Now with the purchase of the Lulzbot TAZ 6 printer, we use the printers on a daily basis.”
Pacific Bay International’s desktop 3D printing initiative is starting to pay dividends. Vic Cutter states, “We have been in the process of designing and prototyping grip sets and fishing rod guides for upcoming products. We have also created molds for polyurethane injection to determine feasibility.”
Vic Cutter reports that desktop 3D printing has also provided some unexpected benefits. “We absolutely enjoy the creative freedom and flexibility that our 3D printers have facilitated. Previously, we had to send the design blueprint to our China facility for tooling and prototype fabrication. If the tooling was incorrect, it was a total waste of money. Now tooling is much easier and we have saved money with this new process.”
Pacific Bay International has taken full advantage of the freedom and the flexibility provided by desktop 3D printers. “We have created 3D printed molds for polyurethane injection to determine feasibility for product use. Our future plans are to continue to use 3D printing to rapid prototype shapes to use in the Chinese factory. We are also exploring the use of NinjaFlex and Nylon for some of our new product lines.” In conclusion, Vic also relayed “I cannot stress enough the creativity that 3D printers have unleashed for developing new products. Now we can try new concepts and ideas without the fear of wasting time and money.”
Through the acceleration of product development, design engineers have long seen and experienced the benefits of desktop 3D printing. Now production and industrial engineers want in on the game and are beginning the reap the dividends of desktop 3D printing in downstream operations. By facilitating creativity and experimentation, new processes, techniques, and scalable throughput may be fully explored at minimal cost. The initial results are beginning to bear fruit at Pacific Bay International and Chaparral Boats. Take the dive and see how desktop 3D printing can assist you in the concept, design, mock-up, prototyping, and production of tomorrow’s cutting-edge products.
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