Taking its name from the popular Dutch drop licorice candy and 3D (ddd), dddrop B.V. has been introducing innovations in 3D printing systems since the company introduced its first 3D printer, the Recon, in 2012. The most recent 3D printer is the Rapid One Industrial 3D Printer, introduced in 2020.
The company’s engineers, who used 3D printing daily in their work, saw the pros and cons of this technology and set about making better-performing, more-effective 3D printers, according to CEO Alfred Uytdewilligen.
“The team used different machines for many years but could never find the perfect balance between quality and price,” Uytdewilligen explains. “We wanted an industrial 3D printer that is built for professional use, but is also affordable. At the time, the market offered only two categories, large machines that deliver industrial results but were out of budget, or smaller affordable machines that were not able to deliver reliable results needed in the business and R&D market. After years of frustration, our team of engineers decided to do what any engineer would do: build our own.”
However, just as development of the modular, customizable, automated Rapid One 3D printer was ramping up, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, creating work and development challenges for the company.
“When COVID hit in early 2020, we were already considering the addition of cloud-based solutions to the SOLIDWORKS product development ecosystem that we had in place because under our company structure, the development team is not all based in one location,” said Uytdewilligen.
“The COVID pandemic made this move urgent, so we quickly added cloud-based 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS solutions to our SOLIDWORKS implementation to continue our development progress without incurring delays,” Uytdewilligen notes. “We needed a solid method for collaborating remotely on product development and also for launching products, both of which 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS solutions provide. We implemented cloud-based solutions for Collaborative Design with SOLIDWORKS, Data Management, Project Planning, Change/Configuration Management, as well as Product Release Engineeer. With these solutions, we were able to meet all of our development deadlines in spite of the pandemic.”
Configuration engine drives modular design
The dddrop design team leveraged the 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS Change/Configuration Management solution to efficiently manufacture the modular design of the newest 3D printer, the Rapid One. This printer allows customers to order printers with build areas in increments of 15 cm and prepares specific configurations for production. “With the Rapid One’s modular design, we can quickly build a printer with a 300 cm x 300 cm x 300 cm build area or customers can order any size they want in 15 cm steps,” Uytdewilligen says.
“We used SOLIDWORKS configuration tools to create the modular design for the printer, but we really needed the 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS Change/Configuration Manager to more efficiently connect different design configurations to production,” Uytdewilligen continues. “We’ve found the 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS Change/Configuration Manager to be a simpler, more streamlined approach to handling design configurations in production.”
Simulating a lightweight, removable print head
Just as dddrop engineers used SOLIDWORKS Simulation capabilities to reduce weight and maintain stiffness in previous print heads, they used SOLIDWORKS motion and structural analysis tools to optimize and validate the Rapid One’s 57-gram, removable print head, and SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation tools to do the same for the printer’s innovative, water-based cooling system.
“We developed a new extremely lightweight aluminum print head that can be changed out in less than a minute,” Uytdewilligen points out.
“We also added a water-based cooling system, which increases the maximum temperature of the print head from 300°C to 450°C, and eliminates the need for special air blowers in the printing room,” Uytdewilligen adds. “With the Rapid One 3D Printer, we cool the print head through air flow over a radiator instead of blowing air into the printing room, which is a more stable and effective approach. The Rapid One printer is four-to-five-times faster than other 3D printers, automatically calibrates and levels the print bed, and can print a range of materials simply by changing the print head.”
Reshaping the future of collaboration
The reason that ddrop was looking into cloud-based product development solutions before the COVID-19 pandemic hit is the fact that the company has embraced the future of collaboration in the cloud because it aligns well with the company’s structure. “The 3DEXPERIENCE platform and 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS solutions are more than radical evolutions of the SOLIDWORKS portfolio,” Uytdewilligen stresses.
“The 3DEXPERIENCE platform represents an entirely new way of working that has allowed us to reshape the company to support greater collaboration, innovation, and productivity,” Uytdewilligen says. “It’s much more than a development platform. It’s a product launching platform in which not everybody is using a SOLIDWORKS seat. Instead, each person has access to the tools and portions of the process that affect them. In essence, the 3DEXPERIENCE platform stretches out the SOLIDWORKS portfolio for use in collaborative spaces in the cloud. We work in a way that was simply not possible before. Using the combination of SOLIDWORKS desktop tools and cloud-based 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS solutions provides us with the best of both worlds while we prepare for the collaborative cloud-based development of the future.”