Tooling is an incredibly common application for 3D printing, be it for manufacturing, assembly, or inspection. Tooling components are most often produced in low volumes, making them a great candidate for 3D printing. Purple Porcupine’s typical lead time is 3-5 business days, meaning your custom part can be designed, printed, and put to use in under a week.
Why Assembly Tooling?
Assembly tooling can reduce labor cost and lower skill premiums for part production. It increases the accuracy and precision of assembled components, thus reducing times for assembly and inspection.
When manufacturing a part, the costs can be broken down into the following categories: material cost, labor cost, and skill premium.
- The material cost is determined by the market and design of the product.
- The labor cost is determined by the manufacturer.
- The skill premium is determined by the design of the part and the difficulty of production.
With the material cost and skill premium both being partially determined by the design of the part, we will focus on how assembly tooling can reduce labor costs.
The biggest drivers in labor costs are manual processes. The two most common manual processes in manufacturing are assembly and inspection.
Assemblies must meet manufacturing tolerances, just like the components used in assembly. Individual components have manufacturing tolerances based on the processes that are used in production. The positional tolerance of assembled components shifts as more components are added. While tolerances are inherent to manufacturing, the tighter the tolerance range is the better it typically performs.
For a real-world example on how a company can utilize FDM printing for tooling applications, check out this BMW case study.
Why Hardware Templates?
Hardware templates are regularly used when assembling components with unconventional geometries and when using multiple sizes of hardware. These templates streamline the assembly process.
When working with unconventional geometries, hardware templates can serve two purposes: to fixture the components for assembly and to guide the placement of hardware.
Fixturing a part leads to higher repeatability. It also reduces the physical and mental stress of the assembly operator.
Guides for placing hardware will improve assembly times by eliminating the need to reference the manufacturing drawings for hardware placement. This can improve both assembly throughput and accuracy of the installed hardware.
Starting Point for Designing 3D Printed Tooling
In order to 3D print a part, there must be a 3D modeling file. To create a tooling file, consider leveraging the outside geometry to create a “negative” impression. You can surround the original part with a 3D modeled block and remove the internal components. Once completed, you can modify the part for specific tooling applications.
Once a 3D modeling file is created, the file is loaded into the printing software for 3D printing. There are some other small considerations to weigh in, but for the most part it is that simple.
If there is not a 3D modeling file created for the part, then it can be reverse engineered via 3D scanning.
Understanding Your Material Options
FDM printing is often used for tooling production, due to the wide range of material options. The great fatigue properties of Nylon 12 and the high tensile strength of carbon fiber make Nylon 12CF a preferred material candidate. However, exact thermoplastic utilization is best determined on a case-by-case basis. To learn more about your material options, please contact our team.
If you are interested in having a hardware template or other assembly tooling developed and/or produced with Purple Porcupine, you can reach out to our team by phone at 949.474.9222 or by email at [email protected].
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Meet Alex Goldsberry
As a Sales Engineer for Purple Porcupine, Alex focuses on bringing value to customers through his knowledge of additive manufacturing, engineering, and 3D printing technology. Out of the office, Alex enjoys reading investment articles and analyzing stock trends. If you haven’t had a chance to meet Alex yet, stop by our office and say hi or connect with him on LinkedIn!