Fixtures and tooling are one of the larger time and cost saving applications for additive manufacturing. German industrial parts manufacturer, Kratzer GmbH & Co. KG, for example, significantly enhanced workflow efficiencies by additively manufacturing fixtures for its assembly lines. With a Stratasys Fortus 450mc Production 3D Printer, the company has reduced fixture production time from a few days to just a few hours, delivering time savings of up to 90% compared to traditional methods.
The integration of Stratasys additive manufacturing has allowed the company to produce highly complex, custom assembly line fixtures quickly and with complete design flexibility, replacing milled fixtures in Kratzer’s laser and measurement machines.
“Since the installation of our new Fortus 450mc 3D Printer, we can have the fixture ready the next day, which results in time savings of up to 90%,” says Christian Maier, Division Manager Fixture Construction and Training Supervisor, Kratzer.
Specializing in the production of custom and on-demand turned, milled, honed and grinded parts, Kratzer uses its fixtures as part of the process to create complex production parts for applications that range from implants for the dental market to brake housings for the automotive and aerospace sectors. The ability to design fit-for-purpose assembly line fixtures quickly for these markets is crucial.
Using its Stratasys Fortus 450mc Production 3D Printer, Kratzer prints most parts out of Polycarbonate and ABS. ULTEM material has also proved to be invaluable for certain production requirements – in particular for parts requiring resistance to extreme temperatures or chemical solutions.
“We have traditionally manufactured parts, which over time naturally start to crack and break,” Maier explains. “Previously, we had to wait for the team to manufacture another fixture, which delayed the production process by several days. Now, we have the file, we can have the fixture in just a few hours. This dramatically enhances our production flow.”
The laser devices in Kratzer’s production line is just one area to have benefited from additive manufactured fixtures.
“Very often, our customers require parts that need a serial number, logo or writing applied to them, which is undertaken by our laser machines,” Maier says. “Prior to having our Fortus 450mc, we had to put each part separately into the laser device, or mill customized fixtures for every job to hold several parts. Obviously, this was tedious and time-consuming, but with additive manufacturing, we can create holding fixtures to laser 30 parts simultaneously, saving us an incredible amount of time and labor.”
In addition to making the production line workflow more efficient, the Stratasys 3D Printer has elevated the level of in-house training. For Maier, the Fortus 450mc has had an even more profound impact: “This technology has enabled a fundamental new way of additive thinking and to apply additive across the design process,” he concludes.
Andy Middleton, President EMEA, Stratasys, comments: “Cases like Kratzer show the tremendous impact that additive manufacturing can have on overall production line efficiency. The significant time and cost savings, as well as the added flexibility and design freedom achievable, offer companies the opportunity to increase competitiveness and enable their engineers to adopt an additive mindset.”