FASTER NYLON PARTS – A New Age for 3D Printing
A RAPIDMADE WHITE PAPER
By Mark Eaton
Getting parts on demand has been a manufacturer’s dream for many years. Since 2005, see M. Park, UNSW article, there have been cries from the 3D printing industry that additive technology would replace the need for injection mold tooling, that it would eliminate the need for machining, that casting would become obsolete. Finally, that dream is becoming a reality.
While there have been success stories such as the use of Stratasys Ultem for aerospace parts and selective laser sintering (SLS) nylon for automotive parts, until today, these components have all had restrictions on where and how they could be used. One of the biggest drivers for this has been the speed and the part cost. Siemens, according to a recent article in Plastics Today, is using 3D printed fire, smoke and toxicity-compliant polymers to replace parts in trams, and they cite part availability as being the primary driver. The US Marines have recently experimented with printing replacement Humvee parts in the field. What all these examples have in common is they are limited in scope by the 3D printing technology restrictions. While the FDM process eliminates tooling, it is still 100x slower than injection molding or machining, and while SLS material prices have been reduced, they are still 10x more expensive than injection molding or nylon bar stock prices. So, the extent to which these older 3D processes can be deployed is still limited by cost and speed.