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Guide: Tooling Applications of Industrial 3D Printers

Tooling, an integral component of almost every manufacturing process, can significantly increase the throughput and repeatability of a production line while lowering cost per part. The use of additive manufacturing (AM) in some of the most demanding end-use tooling applications has increased thanks to development in high performance materials. AM offers greater design complexity, permits assembly consolidation, and significantly lowers tooling costs and lead times than traditional manufacturing techniques.

This manual will assist manufacturers and engineers in identifying potential industrial 3D printing and high performance polymer tooling applications. Find suggestions for materials, time and money savings, and advice on how to incorporate AM into your processes.

Taking Tooling to the Next Level with High Peformance Polymers

High performance polymers, a class of thermoplastics that exhibit extreme mechanical, thermal (up to 260 C), and chemical properties, include PEEK, PEKK, and PEI. These materials, also known as technopolymers or metal replacement polymers, change the way additive manufacturing is used in tooling for things like welding fixtures, high temperature layups, metal forming dies, and more. It should be noted that in order to 3D print these materials, a printer with high temperature extruders (>320 C) and an accurately controlled, actively heated build chamber (>130 C), like the AON M2+, is required.

Jigs and Fixtures

With custom 3D printed jigs and fixtures, you can increase production effectiveness and worker ergonomics while lowering costs and lead times. To accomodate various manufacturing applications, 3D printed parts can easily be enhanced with threaded inserts, drill bushings, and hold down clamps. Use TPUs to make workholding devices for parts with irregular shapes as well as ESD materials for PCB applications and high performance materials for applications requiring a lot of heat, wear, and strength.

  1. Applications: Drill Guides, Assembly Jigs, Inspection Jigs, Template Jigs, Workholding Fixtures, and more.

  2. Materials: ABS, ASA, CF Nylon, TPU, PEEK, PEKK, PEI, ESD Composites

  3. Average Lead Times Saving: 60% - 90%

  4. Average Cost Savings: 80% - 90%

Tips: Open material and dual extrusion 3D printer provide greater flexibility for tooling applications.

Metal Forming

For hydroforming applications, make custom press brake dies, or form blocks the same day. For short-to-medium-run metal forming and concept validation with up to 13 gauge aluminum, 14 gauge stainless steel, or 19 gauge titanium, additive manufacturing offers a quick, affordable solution.

  1. Applications: Dies, Form Blocks

  2. Materials: ABS, PC, PEEK, PEKK, PEI

  3. Average Lead Time Savings: 60% - 80%

  4. Average Cost Savings: 55% - 90%

Tips: High performance materials can be suitable for hydroforming up to 10,000 psi (69 MPA) and a maximum draw depth of 3IN. Use a high infill percentage and increase your dies wall thickness to form thicker gauge metals. Avoid using carbon fibre filled materials for press brake dies, as they may create static electricity that can short press brakes.

Composite Tooling

PEEK, PEKK, or low-cost, low temperature commodity polymers (PC, PETG) can be used t 3D print high strength, high heat layup tooling with low coefficients of thermal expansion (CTE) for autoclave cured resins or for room temperature curing applications. Alternatively, water soluble materials with high strength (up to 101 psi) and high heat (up to 130 C) can be used to construct intricate sacrifical cores.

  1. Applications: Layup Tooling, Soluble Cores

  2. Materials: PC, PETG, CF PEKK, AquaSys 180

  3. Average Lead Time Savings: 50% - 85%

  4. Average Cost Savings: 75% - 95%

Tips: Use chopped carbon fibre-filled materials to further reduce your molds coefficient of thermal expansion.

Thermoforming Tools

For heavy and thin gauge vacuum forming applications, quickly and affordably produce molds using materials such as ABS, Acrylic, HDPE, KYDEX, PET, PVC and others. Molds are durable enough to withstand more than 1000 hits and have enough heat deflection thanks to the use of engineering grade or high performance polymers.

  1. Applications: Vacuum Forming

  2. Materials: CF Nylon, PC, CF PC, PEI

  3. Average Lead Time Savings: 50%+

  4. Average Cost Savings: 70% - 80%

Tips: Use chopped carbon fibre filled materials, such as CF Nylon, to further reduce your mold's coefficient of thermal expansion.

Trim Tooling

For the post processing of metal, carbon fibre, and thermoplastic parts, create custom workholding fixtures. High strength, extreme heat resistance, and wear resistance characteristics of high performance 3D printing materials make them suitable for CNC, waterjet, and other trimming processes.

  1. Applications: Trim tools for CNC, Waterjet, and more

  2. Materials: CF ABS, PC, PEKK, PEI

Tips: Use high performance polymers for dimensional stability in high heat applications

Automation Tools

Make specialised lightweight, low mass end of arm tools. (EOAT). The integration of vacuum channels within end effectors, higher design complexity with associated costs, and assembly consolidation are just a few of the benefits that 3D printing has over traditional manufacturing.

  1. Applications: End of Arm Tooling

  2. Materials: ABS, ASA, PC, CF Nylon, PEI

  3. Average Lead Times Savings: 90%+

  4. Average Cost Savings: 95%+

For more information on AON 3D M2+, please contact your local Dynagraph representative.+

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