Thursday, April 09, 2009

DDM Service Utilises Fused Deposition Modelling

At the core of the Laser Lines Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM) service is the Stratasys Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) technology. FDM is an additive manufacturing technology that produces strong accurate parts in functional thermoplastic materials. This technology is able to produce durable parts, offering a level of performance similar to injection-moulded components and providing an alternative to traditional manufacturing.

Direct Digital Manufacturing takes data from 3D CAD and turns it into a functional part to provide a fast economical method for producing low volume parts. As additive manufacturing can produce any shape required, the designer can concentrate on function without having to worry about how it can be made. What would have been a complex assembly can now be produced as one part.

Components can be produced as and when required eliminating the need for inventory or spares. As different versions of a part can be produced or re-produced at will, designs can be changed frequently at no additional cost. This method of manufacturing offers advantages for low-volume production. By using FDM parts, the design and assembly of the product can be simplified as traditional manufacturing constraints are removed.

There is no need to carry inventory as, on receipt of an order, the parts can be rapidly produced. Frequent design changes can be made at minimal cost making it easy to improve the instrument and incorporate higher specification components. Custom modifications become economically viable. As any version of any parts can be produced, there is no need to stock spares. Many companies manufacturing specialist low-volume products can use Direct Digital Manufacturing to produce better products at lower costs with shorter lead times and even offer tailor-made solutions, said Laser Lines.

FDM parts can also offer savings in the production of fabrication and assembly tools. These are traditionally made in metal and may require a number of parts to be produced and assembled. The cost is high and the lead times can be long. Additive manufacturing can produce tools in hours regardless of how complicated they are. A jig or fixture that may have required numerous parts can often be made in one piece. This flexibility makes it easier to design tools and build in functionality.

Following this route can also reduce documentation and simplify procurement. Once the design has been created in CAD, the manufacturer only needs to know that it is to be built on an FDM machine and what material to use. The tool can be built by anyone with access to an FDM machine and the result will always be the same. Companies can therefore shop around to find the best price and have the tools made close to where they are needed.

Because the process is clean and simple it is easy to bring the process in house. Laser Lines provides the equipment and also offers a service for building Direct Digitally Manufactured parts. A choice of materials is available including ABS, Polycarbonate, Polycarbonate/ABS blend, Polycarbonate ISO, Ultem 9085 and Polyphenylsulphone. Material specifications are available on request. A range of machines is available in-house with build sizes up to 406mm x 356mm x 406mm. Larger parts can be built by cutting the 3D data and bonding it post build.

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