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Industrial 3D printing for Tooling – Function integration, faster amortisation

Additive manufacturing from EOS increase both the productivity of the tools and the product quality

Break even analysis for costs in injection moulding illustrates economic benefits of DMLS in comparison to conventional manufacturing (Source: EOS)

In many industries, the production of specialist tools us one of the most expensive aspects of the production processes. It is generally expensive, time consuming and very technically demanding to use conventional processes. EOS has the solution: Based on Additive Manufacturing, EOS enables single parts or individualized serial products to be manufactured quickly, cost-effectively and flexibly – even in small batch sizes.

Even highly complex forms and designs with integrated cooling or tempering channels are not a problem for Additive Manufacturing. Conventional production processes reach the limit of their capabilities here: They restrict design and construction freedom because, for example, the only solution for cooling is often simply to drill the required channels. Also, as a tool becomes more complex, so the costs associated with it rise enormously.

The design benefits of Additive Manufacturing from EOS increase both the productivity of the tools and the plastic product quality. Scrap rate and cost per part decline. In addition, manufacturers profit from cycle time reduction and longer service life for tools. They can also bring their products to market more quickly: For example, Innomia managed to reduce the time-to-market from 18 to 13 days in comparison with conventional tool manufacture as part of a tool optimisation project by using Additive Manufacturing.

Benefits of additive manufacturing for Tooling

  • Maximum freedom of design
  • Design-driven manufacturing
  • Highly productive tools, faster amortisation
  • Flexible manufacturing processes, for example the choice between hybrid construction/non-hybrid construction
  • Function integration
  • Reduction in wage costs thanks to standalone processes

EOS also helps businesses to achieve their sustainability targets: overall, Additive Manufacturing enables more efficient, faster production with less scrap. This reduces CO2 emissions.

Partner Case Study

FADO, established in 1984, is a tooling and injection moulding company based in Bydgoszcz, Poland. FADO is one of EOS official service providers for DMLS (direct metal laser sintering). The EOS Additive Manufacturing technology enables FADO the manufacturing of inserts equipped with conformal cooling channels, which can reduce cycle time by 30% on average, as well as improve the overall quality of injected parts.

EOS Additive Manufacturing technology – Tooling best-practice examples

Tooling: FWB – Major Savings in Production Time and Cost Using Additive Manufacturing

Powerful EOSINT M 280 supersedes hybrid solution of the tool insert

To ensure that Germany remains an attractive location for the production of injection-moulded tools and plastic components, toolmakers and component producers rely on innovative technologies and procedures that save time and minimise expense. For years, Eastern European producers have been able to supply tools and injection components at lower prices than the so-called high-wage countries, and now they are being joined by more and more suppliers from the Far East. That is why German plastics processors need to make as much use of innovative and economic processes as they can, to be able to meet this cost pressure effectively. FWB Kunststofftechnik GmbH has been working closely with LBC LaserBearbeitungsCenter GmbH, a producer of metal parts using Additive manufacturing. This cooperation has resulted in the present method for realising tool inserts for injection-moulding components.

Challenge

The project at hand was to manufacture mould cores for a 16-core production tool intended for the serial pro- duction of injection-moulded plastic components. The requirements placed on such components derive from the situation in Eastern European injection moulding production facilities described above. Product life cycles are becoming increasingly short, resulting in the need for greater flexibility in tool construction. It is of great importance that a fast and inexpensive method of devel- oping and realising moulds be employed and that it be suitable for use in highly automated, independently operating produc- tion cells. In other words, not only is it necessary to provide tools quickly and cost-efficiently, but they must continue to work with high precision over long periods of time.

Solution

In September of last year, LBC incorporated a new EOSINT M 280 laser sintering system into its manufacturing process. As a result, the company is now able to produce laser sintered components not only faster but also more cheaply, with a laser output that has doubled from 200 to 400 watts. The company is now able to weld tool steel 1.2709 in a variety of layer thicknesses more homogeneously than ever before. This increase in productivity offers interesting new perspectives for LBC customers’ tool and mould construction activities. As a manufacturer of tools and plastic components, FWB is one company taking advantage of this.

At the time of FWB’s initial request, LBC proposed a cost-optimised hybrid solution. FWB needed to produce a hybrid blank for a mould insert with the maximum possible volume. First, LBC calculated the structure of the cavity to fit the capacity of their EOSINT M 270. After integrating and configuring the EOSINT M 280 unit, the project was recalculated and two of the 16 tool cores to be made for the new production tool were constructed on the new system.

Results

Inserts produced using the laser sintering technology have distinct advantages over conventional mould inserts. There is no other process that allows such flexible placement of the cooling channels in the tool inserts, so close to the component contour. The benefit of this is a more precise and uni- form cooling pattern. Ralph Mayer, Managing Partner at LBC GmbH, explains: “The cycle time and the quality of the parts are also better than if tools with conventional cooling were used.”

Another advantage is the greatly reduced post-processing. In the case of FWB, the inserts only had to undergo a single final processing stage of smoothing, to bring them fully in line with the company’s quality requirements.

It was primarily the fact that these fully laser sintered compo- nents required only minimal post processing that made the decision-makers at FWB take a closer look at their overall costs. This revealed the following additional benefits: The fully Additive manufacturing method for tool inserts turned out to be 25 % more economic for FWB than the original hybrid solution. The new laser sintering system saved them four weeks in produc- tion time. Moreover, the compo- nent structures displayed consid- erable stability compared with hybrid components, which would have been made up of two parts. It was no longer necessary to create a permanent joint between the pre-produced metal and the joined-on laser sintered section.

As a result of these findings, the production tool was finally manu- factured in an additive process using the EOSINT M 280. Using the more powerful system for production clearly demonstrates the financial benefits of the new manufacturing method, both for FWB as a customer and LBC as producer. Ralph Mayer also notes: “What we have here is a classic win-win situation. Thanks to the new machine technology, we are able to supply our custom- ers even more flexibly, and our customers also profit in terms of time, cost and quality. In this way, we are ensuring that our customers feel well looked after, benefit all around from our expert know-how, and maintain their faith in us for many years to come.“

3D view of the inner cooling channels of the tool insert, which could not be manufactured using conventional machining (Source: LBC)

3D view of the inner cooling channels of the tool insert, which could not be manufactured using conventional machining (Source: LBC)

“Another reason for the success of the cooperation with LBC is that both the management and the employees always think flexibly when it comes to finding alternatives to existing production processes. The specialists at LBC showed us a new production alternative with the EOSINT M 280, which has given us optimum results coupled with reduced time and production expenditure.“

Michael Gerich, Head of Tool Management Department at FWB Kunststofftechnik GmbH

“By integrating the new EOSINT M 280 into our production, we were immediately able to offer customers a time- and cost- efficient alternative to hybrid component production. By directly transferring our con- struction data to the machines and performing the complete manufacture, even of compo- nents with large dimensions using laser sintering technolo- gy, our customers are able to benefit from valuable time and cost advantages in contour-near tool tempering.“

Ralph Mayer, Managing Partner of LBC LaserBearbeitungsCenter GmbH

Short Profile

FWB Kunststofftechnik GmbH stands for innovative developments and technical expertise in plastic injection-moulding technology. The company‘s fields of activity include injection-moulding tools, automation, and plastic components.

LBC LaserBearbeitungsCenter GmbH supplies tool inserts made using Additive manufacturing for tool and mould construction. The company possesses specialised know-how in the fields of contour-near tempering and thermal dimensioning of injection-moulded and die-cast tools.

Tooling: Innomia  – Czech Tool Manufacturer Relies on Additive Manufacturing for Complex Customer Projects

Accelerate Production and Reduce Maintenance: Innomia uses EOS technology for optimizing manufacturing process for automotive components

The quality of plastic vehicle components has increased greatly over the last years: complexity, high fitting accuracy, visual appeal, and surface feel all meet the constant demand for premium quality – even in many of the high-priced models. Manufacturers and suppliers are relying more and more on high-tech solutions. One of the sectors in which the Czech Republic based company Innomia a.s. is active, is the automotive sector. The company has become a big advocate of the benefits of Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS). Its portfolio spans prototype construction, the manufacture of inserts for injection molds and casting tools, tool repair and more.With the help of EOS technology, the DMLS professionals have supported the automotive supplier Magna in optimizing the production process for injection molded plastic parts. This involved a revision of the cooling process. The case concerns the manufacture of the arm-rest situated between the front seats.

Challenge

The manufacture of the plastic components for the central arm-rest is undertaken by the supplier Magna – a customer of Innomia. Production is based on a classic injection molding process. This involves melted plastic filled with glass fibers, injected into the mold cavity and then solidifying. The component can be subsequently removed and is ready for delivery to the automotive manufacturer or to further suppliers in the chain. So much for the simplified version. In reality this is a complex process in which each step must function perfectly.

The heat energy of the liquid base material needs to be dissipated throughout the manufacturing tool to enable the plastic to solidify. The cooling process dictates, amongst other things, the quality of the component. This is because irregular heat dissipation can lead to deformations. Beyond that, temperature control plays a major role in dictating the production cycle time. The quicker the heat is removed, the sooner a component can be extracted and the next one produced.

The tool insert used to date has been made of extremely heat-conducting beryllium-copper alloy and cooling was only possible from one side of the insert. This meant that the temperature distribution was uneven. The cooling water needed to be very cold, just 16°C, in order to absorb the level of heat energy. Through the high insert surface temperatures – up to 120°C – the humidity rose in the vicinity, which, in turn, accelerated corrosion. This resulted in a cost intensive cleaning being necessary every one to two weeks. The hardness of the mold core was all that prevented damage of surfaces during the regular cleaning process.

Solution

As a logical consequence, the designers from Innomia began to develop a new tool insert cooling system. The optimized removal of heat generated in the production process was right at the top of the list of priorities. The team decided to go with integrated precision cooling channels, a tried and tested application under DMLS technology, and one of the solutions that only Additive Manufacturing processes can provide. The EOSINT M 270 system from EOS, a system proven over many years, was deployed for Innomia.

The diameter of the cooling channels is just 3 mm. The metal chosen was Maraging Steel 1.2709. The manufacturing process – the layered application and melting of the metal powder corresponding to 3D-data – enabled the employees of the Czech specialists to increase the degree of hardness through post-treatment to over 50 HRC. These mechanical characteristics guarantee a high resistance to wear and thereby reduce the maintenance costs.

“The DMLS process, using the EOSINT M 270, enabled us to manufacture an extremely durable component, while at the same time successfully retaining the proven advantages of the method in terms of design and reduced cycle times,” explains Luboš Rozkošný, CEO at Innomia. “Thanks to the cooling channels, integrated in the component with optimum precision, we have resolved the main challenge of the production process, and done so with limited expense.”

Results

The precision cooling and the production using Additive Manufacturing technology has had the desired results. The temperature distribution and associated heat dissipation are now substantially more homogenized. Since the heat is distributed and leaves both the tool and the component quicker, a water temperature of 60°C is sufficient for cooling – reducing the energy needed. The insert surface itself does not heat up beyond 90°C, a fact that further allowed the engineers to resolve the humidity problems in the surrounding area.

Thanks to Innomia and EOS technology, Magna profits from a maintenance interval that is extended to between five and six weeks. The problem of air humidity condensation and potential cavity corrosion was solved completely. The uniform cooling channels are work so well that the time required for the production cycle is now 17% lower than before. As a result of the even and fast distribution and dissipation of heat, the components no longer deform. This has a direct and positive influence on the quality and speed of manufacturing. The reduction of the production cycle time and the improved quality of the end product are simultaneous benefits. After 370,000 cycles, Innomia and Magna have further improved the results. In this period the total savings have already reached some 20,000 euros.

Pavel Strnadek, Head of Tool Maintenance at Magna, is very happy with the results: “The issue of cooling was something that we’ve been trying to deal with for a long time. We knew how an improved product would have to look, but manufacturing it just wasn’t possible. Additive Manufacturing allowed us to make the breakthrough. We were able to plan the cooling channels just as we wanted them and then manufacture the mold core correspondingly. The laser fuses the metallic powder layer by layer, so that in effect any shape is possible. The result has convinced us at every level. Maintenance, quality of the end product, costs, heat dissipation – it’s been the perfect project.” Additive Manufacturing technologies are helping companies to deliver the promise of quality in automobile construction – Magna, a supplier to Škoda, demonstrates this on a daily basis.

 

“The automobile industry in Europe is subject to stiff competition. This fact naturally has an effect on suppliers such as Magna. That’s why it’s very important for us to be able to produce to the highest quality standards at the lowest price. With the optimization of our production plant via the improved cooling of our tools, we have created a textbook example of how technology can help increase efficiency. We reduced the maintenance costs for our production plant, optimized the quality of our components and increased the number of production cycles. This enabled us to uphold the promise of quality we made to our client and, at the same time, meet our own high demands regarding cost-effectiveness.”

Short Profile

INNOMIA a.s. was founded in 2006. The company’s goal is to support and advise customers such as Magna, the Škoda supplier, on the development and manufacture of products, and of metal and plastic prototypes.

Tooling: Salcomp – Additive Manufacturing Permits Optimized Cooling for Maximum Production Efficiency

EOS Technology helps to implement precise conformal cooling channels for increased production and less waste

According to the German industry association BITKOM, more than 700 mill. smartphones were sold worldwide in 2012 – an unbelievably dynamic growth market and one in which, in addition to the large well-known manufacturers, the suppliers play a decisive role. Market leader Salcomp, based in Chennai, India, produces plugs and power supply units for cell phones. The company has additional market potential through the production of LED drivers. The total manufacturing capacity amounts to more than 440 mill. units per year. In the light of such large quantities, optimizing the production process becomes a crucial factor in a company’s ability to compete. For the construction of its production tools, Salcomp relies on the Additive Manufacturing technology provided by EOS.

Challenge

As is the case in the mass production of comparable products, Salcomp usually produces the in-house parts by means of a plastic injection moulding process provided by their qualified supplier: The respective machine transports heat-liquefied plastic into a mould, known as the cavity. In the hardening process the part must cool in the shortest time possible. Immediately after-wards the machine releases the finished part. Thanks to state-of-the-art materials and ever more efficient manufacturing tools, the production process has been significantly shortened, while quality has also improved.

Further improvement to an already successful process is difficult. However, efficiency gains are a necessity when competing internationally. The key element of the production process which need to be improved is cooling. But this is also difficult element to improve: Even the fastest machines cannot increase production speed once the physical limitations of the base material have been reached, or when the relevant raw material costs cannot be reduced any further. The fact of the matter is that the temperature and the ability to cool rapidly play a decisive role in the manufacturing process.

Cooling channels are responsible for dissipating heat. These are situated all around the cavity. Under traditional production methods the scope for flexibility in the design of the cooling system was extremely limited: Because the tools themselves were either cast or turned from metal, the form specification was restricted by the possibility of drilling or hollowing out the corresponding moulds. It was not possible to produce curves and other complex shapes using such processes.

Solution

A change in the plastic proprietary production material was not an option, so Salcomp decided to seek new alternatives for the optimization of the cooling system. The aim was to construct the manufacturing tools in such a way that the parts could cool at a faster rate. As a consequence, the project managers decided to look more closely at the design of the cooling channels. Following this process, they looked into the possibility of perfecting the form and finding a technology capable of producing the corresponding structure.

The solution to the first part of the task was as follows: The cooling elements themselves were to be brought closer to the cavity. In this way, the heat from the layer of metal can pass through and exit the machine faster. At the same time, the fine points of the design should make sure that this evacuation takes place as effectively as possible. In order to bring the plan to fruition, Salcomp required a technology that made the precision positioning of the cooling channels possible, without causing any new problems.

Since drilling, turning, or other options could neither provide the necessary flexibility of design nor the required precision, Additive Manufacturing, in this case metal-based, entered the discussion: Salcomp commissioned a third party to utilize EOS technology in the producing EOSINT M 270, applying Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) for the manufacture of its core inserts. Simulation models were used in order to establish an ideal form for use in the production process.

Results

The successful change to tool production had an effect: As planned the cooling channels were to be moved to the smallest possible distance from the edges of the core inserts, so they became conformal. At the same time, the quality of the end-product as a whole was improved thanks to the use of Additive Manufacturing. “The reason for this is the extreme precision that the process offers, in which a laser beam hardens the metal granulate, layer by layer, to exactly the specifications set down by the engineers using 3D software”, explains Krishnan Ramkumar, Tooling Specialist from EOS India, who was in charge of the project on site.

The improvements are now showing positive effects in the daily production run at Salcomp: The time required for cooling was reduced from 14 to just 8 sec for each production cycle. The company was able to increase its monthly output through this efficiency gain by more than 56,000 units, without having to make adjustments to their manufacturing machinery. The annual cost savings amount to 20,000 euros.

In addition, the reject rate fell from 2% to 1.4%, bringing cost savings and a reduction in the environmental impact of the production process. The final result is increased production quality, in spite of shortening the production cycle.

“We are extremely satisfied with the results achieved through our new, precision cooling design. Our core inserts, produced using Additive Manufacturing technology, are achieving the benefits that we were looking for: We were able to shorten the production cycle while simultaneously improving quality. The reduced costs combined with the increased rate of production have shown that technology is not simply self-serving but also has a positive impact on our business”, says Arumugam Narayanaswami, responsible for sourcing at Salcomp. “We are confident that in the future we will be able to identify further fields in which EOS technology can be utilized to increase our profitability.“

“The production process using Additive Manufacturing technology proved to be ideal. We were able to furnish the core inserts with optimally designed cooling channels. The heat was evacuated far quicker, cutting the production cycle from 14 to just 8 sec, and bringing about a 56,000 unit rise in monthly production.“

Short profile

Salcomp, who is a supplier to Nokia, offers mass production of power adapters, chargers and LED drivers. The total capacity of its production plants in Shenzhen (China), Chennai (India) and in Manaus (Brazil) is over 440 mill. pieces. The company delivers large volumes globally and provides worldwide service.

Further information

Rapid Prototyping with additive manufacturing solutions by EOS

Additive manufacturing is ideally suited for Rapid Prototyping. Thanks to the highest possible degree of design freedom, even complex shapes such as bionic structures can be manufactured. It is possible to manufacture physical presentation and functional prototypes quickly and cost-efficiently without the need for manual processing – directly using three-dimensional CAD construction data. This makes the entire product development process considerably faster.

Flexible construction and material variants

EOS systems build up prototypes as well as end products layer-by-layer. Different metal and plastic powder materials are available. Products made of different materials belonging to one material family (metal or plastic) can be processed on one machine. This is especially interesting for prototype manufacturing.

Companies in many sectors of industry are now making successful use of laser sintering processes in their development and manufacturing processes.

EOS Quality: Result of extensive experience and the highest manufacturing standards

EOS continuously monitors the quality of all components at every process step in the value-added chain and holds the relevant product certifications and validations

The aim of EOS quality policy is to identify current customer needs and future market demands early on and meet these by means of the appropriate organisational, technological and economic resources. This is the only way to ensure the success and competitiveness of the company in the long term.

The cornerstones of our quality policy are:

EOS has defined quality principles which we implement throughout the entire company:

  • Our quality benchmark is the satisfaction of our customers
  • We strive to achieve an outstanding level of quality in all products and services
  • Secure organisational and technological processes allow us to maintain our high quality standards both reliably and economically
  • Every employee endeavours to produce work of impeccable quality and avoid errors
  • Every employee contributes to achieving our company goals and improving quality through responsible, quality-conscious action
  • We promote awareness of quality in every employee by providing training programs and information events

The key factor in implementing our quality policy is management acting as a role model of our principles. For this reason, the managing directors and every manager in the company are committed to align their day-to-day actions with the defined quality policy.

Quality Management

EOS quality management is focused on development and continuous improvement using the best methods available, both in terms of organisation as well as processes, systems and product. This is done in partnership with all colleagues and departments. In this way we are able to meet customer demands, our company goals and legal requirements in an efficient manner.

EOS documents its high standards by means of important certifications of its quality management system.

  • EOS GmbH: certified according to ISO 9001 since 1998 for development, manufacturing, sales and service of systems and solutions for Additive Manufacturing using laser sintering technology
  • EOS Finland Oy: Certified according to ISO 9001 for design, manufacture and sales of metal materials and processes for EOSINT M systems. Also certified according to ISO 13485 and Directive 93/42/EEC for medical applications with Cobalt Chrome SP2 registered as class II medical product in EU for dental applications.
  • KVS GmbH: certified according to ISO 9001 for the development, production, testing and sales of polyamide powders and mixtures

EOS updates the QM processes according to standards in the medical and aerospace industries and according to GMP. EOS continuously monitors the quality of all components at every process step in the value-added chain. EOS also holds the relevant product certifications and validations (IQ, OQ, PQ) for all components of the Additive Manufacturing process. This includes processes and finished parts on the customer side as well as regulatory certificates and registrations in global markets.