Metal additive manufacturing (AM), is an intriguing advancement in the field of technology. It has a niche in short-run press brake tooling and the production of peripheral assembly items. 3D-printed parts made of plastics or carbon fibre composites are a different story.
Whether you depend on in-house knowledge to build tools or seek less expensive short-term tools, Wilson Tool International Inc. and Cincinnati Incorporated are your answers.
Cincinnati launched Small Area Additive Manufacturing (SAAM) in 2017.
“We have been working on the idea of 3D-printed tooling for several years,” said Mark Watson, press brake product specialist at Cincinnati. Tests produced encouraging results for the future of printed tooling. They were curious about the benefits of the weakest material. “We discovered that using polylactic acid (PLA), none of the plastic tools broke on mild steel up to 12 gauge.”
The traditional fabricator would prefer an in-house tool. It allows you to design, print, and run the tooling promptly.
The tooling built in the SAAM generally has a durability of 1000 hits. Back gauge fingers are another facility allowing you to print fingers for contour matching. It holds a tolerance instead of gauging the part and can change the bend sequence. A 3D fixture checks the angles, lengths, and inner radius and can be tongs for gripping minute parts.
The SAAM and the PLA run at an ideal speed and temperature with carbon fibre nylon (CarbonX). The part unloader removes the finished product from the substrate and unloads it. The SAAM HT (for “High Temperature”) is an advanced model for producers using thermoplastics and composites. The machine prints in Ultem®, PEEK, polycarbonate, and any thermoplastic up to 500 degrees C.
Many fab shops find it viable to buy printed tooling than making it themselves. However, they still value a short-run, promptly delivered product. In October 2018, with this perspective, Wilson Tool launched Wilson Tool Additive™ product lines, Bend3D™ and Solv3D™,
According to Bryan Rogers, senior additive manufacturing engineer, research went behind the ideal material for sheet metal operations. Materials like resin systems, fused deposition modelling (FDM) systems [3D printers that produce industrial thermoplastic parts], and metal powder deposition systems aced.
The machines are built by California-based Carbon and Massachusetts-based Markforged. Epoxy or rigid polyurethane materials run on The Carbon 3D machine while for rigidity Markforged machine is used.
“We first ensure that the application meets the criteria for additive-built tooling,” said Rogers. “Then, we look at three decisive factors; material thickness, size, and bend radii of the part.”
The tool goes through a couple of iterations to ensure efficiency before delivery. Changes in design happen according to the constraints of the tooling material.
Wilson wants to reach 1000 bends using a thin gauge.
Solv3D in-sources smaller parts that were previously manufactured produced using injection mould. With more than 30 part numbers straight-up production end-use parts, they rap tool on Carbon machine and a pneumatic clamping system.
Many shops can benefit from 3D-printed tools. The choice is of involvement,