From prototyping to manufacturing
A mechanical workshop specializing in manufacturing dies for goldsmiths, diversifies its business by entering 3D printing into the production flow. As a first step for prototyping, and then also for the rapid production. Here are the strategies, the equipment and the operating way of a Tuscan company that managed to seize upon the opportunities offered by the additive manufacturing
To produce tools for goldsmiths and dies for cold forging of the materials, in particular the precious ones. It has always been the mission of MEMO, founded in 1976 in Arezzo. At the beginning the activity was essentially manual, but over time the Tuscan company has accelerated the technological innovation. It has so regularly invested in machinery increasingly precise and performing, matching the solid CNC machines, typical of a mechanical workshop, a set of rapid prototyping systems by which MEMO manufactures samplings of unique elements and directly produces goods such as fashion jewelry and buckles, drills’ handles and closures for backpacks. Let’s see now the reasons which led the Tuscan company to invest in 3D printing, why they chose the 3D Systems’ MultiJet machines and how they use them.
The importance of rapid prototyping
In this kind of marketplace, as well as the high quality level that has always distinguished the activity of MEMO, is also important productivity and timeliness of the work “In recent years – confirms Luca Verdelli, owner and administrator of MEMO – the market demand is not only turn to the creation of a flawless product, but also to lower delivery times. ” And here the choice to open up to rapid prototyping techniques. “We use 3D printers to get an idea of what we are producing – continues Verdelli – with maximum adherence to the final model. We chose the rapid prototyping machines of 3D Systems because of the dimensions of the work surface, the ease of use and the speed of execution. After purchasing a first model, the high demand for prototypes and resin to be melted directly by electrofusion, led us to purchase two more printers increasingly performing. Now, they are working daily both for sampling unique elements, both for the production of more numerous items: even 1000 items at once». M.E.M.O. found in 3DZ Toscana (registered as TBNET Solutions Arezzo, branch for Tuscany and Umbria of 3DZ Group), the right partner to satisfy its desire to introduce rapid prototyping in their flow production.«M.E.M.O. has started to diversify its activities as a workshop specialized in the production of dies for goldsmiths in 2007 – tells Flavio Tiberi, founder of 3DZ Toscana – buying a 3D Systems InVision HR and thus beginning their adventure in the world of 3D printing, made necessary to provide different services to their increasingly demanding customers».
Photo: Luca Verdelli, owner and administrator of M.E.M.O.
From prototyping to manufacturing
Over the years MEMO has shown a need to move from prototyping to production itself. In the Arezzo’s goldsmith center, these 3D printing machines are in fact used to produce “sacrificial models” which will then be used for the lost wax casting manufactures of gold and silver. These are items that can be only produced with this kind of machines and that are designed in the CAD because of their complex shapes and textures. Moreover, their thicknesses are not otherwise achievable with traditional goldsmith techniques. The Tuscan company, always focused on innovation, is still investing in prototyping and rapid manufacturing. «They bought – continues Tiberi – the ProJet HD 3000, the new model of their first InVision HR, with the same workspace (XYZ 125x178x150 mm) but with a greater building height: from 50 mm to 150 mm.”
This 3D Systems printer enables to print in two resolution modes: the UHD mode (with layers from 0.02 mm), used for the goldsmith production, and the HD mode (layers from 0.032 mm) to produce mechanical objects or large volume items (work area equal to A4 sized from 203mm in Z). A solution that allowed MEMO to offer itself as service provider even to architects and design firms that want to realize new products prototypes.
ASome products made by the Tuscan company with Projet of 3D Systems.
The third generation
As the market grows, it increases the quality requirements and also increases the competition for MEMO, who then decides to invest again buying the third generation of their printer, the ProJet HD 3500 Plus.
Compared to previous versions it has more important benefits: three different print resolutions (XHD, HD and UHD: in the first two the work surface increases in X going from 125 to 205 millimeters and mode XHD layers can be made from 0.016 mm), tanks of two kilograms for loading materials (the materials are now six, with characteristics very similar to the conventional ABS) and greater ease of maintenance . «This printer has fully met our client needs – says Tiberi – in terms of speed and repeatability of products, in contrast to what happened with tests carried out on other manufacturers’ printers. It was particularly appreciated the simplicity of the post processing and cleaning phases, before delivery to the customer, that does not require any operators or expensive equipment. MEMO appreciated as well the machine’s reliability and the quality of our service and support».
Photo: Flavio Tiberi, 3DZ Toscana founder
What M.E.M.O. is offering now
Currently the company from Arezzo has CNC machines with 3, 4 and 5 axes (and all the necessary for the mechanics) and the 3D Systems’ printers ProJet HD 3000 and ProJet HD 3500 Plus for serial and unique models productions. “We loaded the printers with blue and transparent resins – said Verdelli – to provide a service to both those who must retouch the printed item in a second time (blue resin), and those who must go to melt directly through the electrofusion process (transparent resin)”.
But what are now the most popular products? “They vary depending on the market requests and they change every season, influenced by the cost of the metal and fashion,” adds the director of Memo. “A flower with a 18K gold watermark of 0.40 mm in diameter for Singapore, after a month become a flower 25% larger, with a 0.70 mm watermark to be realized in silver for the European market ». «This also applies to the functional samples of items for everyday use (handles of electric drills, backpacks closures…) or fashion accessories (buckles, heels, soles …) that still occupy a large part of the annual work of our 3D printers.”
The 3D Systems’ ProJet HD 3000 and ProJet HD 3500 Plus are operating in MEMO averagely 16 hours a day. “The ease of use, the printing quality and ease of repair / maintenance of the printed object convinced us to stay with 3D Systems, from the old InVision HR that we used for six years without problems and hitches. Over the years the machines evolved both in terms of hardware and software: compared to the old printer we now have more space in the table, more memory for templates (it means more details for the single printed item), greater reliability of all parts of the machine and the possibility to vary between three print resolutions depending on whether you wish to have elements of 35 μm, 27 μm or 19 μm.”
“The configuration the customer chooses are always aimed at maximizing productivity, all of course with the availability of spending“, concludes Tiberi. “Thinking about the future certainly we will be consider the new version ProJet 3510 HD MAX. The rise of MEMO beyond goldsmithing and fashion industry is pushing them to take in account other technologies such as chalk powder, for the architecture and packaging, but also FDM machines for manufacturing prototypes with large-format and low costs.”
Original article published in “Il progettista industriale” edition October 2015