According to 3D printing / additive manufacturing vendors, one of the more popular uses of these machines is to create jigs and fixtures for manufacturing operations. About 60 to 70% of their customers use 3D printing for this application. The reason is that 3D printing helps operators evaluate and then quickly modify jigs and fixtures for manufacturing operations to reduce lead time and costs.
This 3D printed thread rolling machine die holder is an example. It is custom designed to house several production instruments (including a pair of die, blot, test pieces) in one easy-to-access place. 3D printed on a large format 3D printer, the 3DP1000 in one piece, this die holder allows the machine operator to retrieve all tools needed for one job quickly, and store the entire set of instruments conveniently in one place.
The thread rolling machine has 50 sets of cylindrical dies that require proper storage to avoid contamination and corrosion over time. To streamline machine operations, each set of dies needs to be stored with its pairing test pieces and bolt. Not many of these storage sets are needed, though, so producing them through traditional tooling/injection molding methods requires at least 2–5 weeks lead time and costs a minimum of $300 per piece.
The engineers used open market 3D modeling software, such as CAD and Simplify3D, to quickly design the die holder model and 3D print it in one piece using 3D Platform’s large format 3D printer, the 3DP1000. The material was PLA.
After two design iterations, thread rolling machine die holder was put to use. The entire project was finished within one week, including two design iterations and 3D print time for the first two test pieces (20 hours print).
The PLA material cost was $100 per piece versus a minimum of $300 per piece with traditional methods.