Any custom part or object can be a natural fit for 3D printing/additive manufacturing. Dallan S.p.A, Treviso, Italy, uses 3D printing in the development of its custom production assembly systems for precision roll forming and sheet metal production.
“Our customers tell us the end product they wish to produce,” said Andrea Dallan, CEO and Sales Director at Dallan. “It could be a shutter or window blind, products for suspended ceilings, drywall manufacture and more. Then we develop the automated production systems that manufacture that product.”
In an effort to continually diversify components and improve time-to-market, the company added 3D printing systems to its conventional machining technologies. Installing the 3D Systems ProJet 3510 helps the machine tool builder quickly produce custom equipment for clients.
Said Dallan, “Each production machine we make is basically a well-tested prototype, since it’s unique to each customer’s needs. Each automated section and mechanism must be designed, manufactured, tested and applied to the machine, using many components that have to interact seamlessly.
In some cases, customer parts, such as window blinds, are often quite delicate. So the machine components, especially those for picking and handling of the parts, are typically milled from solid blocks of plastic material. But this process takes time, especially when you consider that for foamed rolling shutter production there are more than 300 different models and the picking clamp must perfectly match the form of the part being made. Using traditional milling, it takes a long time to perfectly match the curvature. Using 3D printing, you have the shape already in place and you simply print it with perfect dimensional accuracy.
Reducing machining time
According to Dallan, 3D printing enables his team to pursue two paths. “Either we print components in plastic materials that are assembled as final parts on the machines, or we obtain prototypes used to carry out functional, dimensional assembly tests before manufacturing the part in metal.
“In both cases, the ProJet 3510 system allows us to cut machine manufacturing time and reach the market faster. We are even using an acrylic resin that has sufficient mechanical features to create, for instance, support elements for sensors.
“We use 3D printing instead of milling to create brackets measuring 10 x 20 mm, which include holes for the passage of optical fiber sensors. To program the machine tool with the correct inclination of the holes, internal threading and so on is long and demanding work. But with 3D printing we designed the bracket with all details related to the holes. We send the file to the ProJet 3510 and by the next morning the components are ready to assemble, apply and test.”
The ProJet 3510 3D printer is easy to use, compact and silent, and makes it possible to manufacture aesthetic prototypes and prototypes for dimensional assessment. Parts have smooth surfaces and well-defined edges for functional tests, forms and coupling checking, rapid prototyping, product presentations, masters for casting, or silicon replicas.
The ProJet uses MultiJet technology. Maximum part dimension is 298 x 185 x 203 mm, with a maximum resolution of 750 x 750 x 1600 dpi and layer thickness up to 16 μm.
An addition to conventional machining
Dallan and his team are discovering that 3D printing helps them create specific solutions that can’t be achieved with conventional machining.
“We identify the cases in which it is more profitable to use 3D printing and those in which it is preferable to use milling. At times, to optimize machining time, if the milling devices are busy we manufacture some pieces directly with the 3D printer.”
“Another important aspect we have verified is that 3D printing can prove very useful even during the project development stage.”
Dallan sees potential with his 3D printing business. “I believe that the possibility of customizing parts and the design freedom offered by 3D printing, used in synergy with conventional machining technologies, will allow us to respond in an increasingly versatile and specialized manner to the new challenges set by our customers.”