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Rethinking Manufacturing with the Digital Factory
By Menno Ellis, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Plastics, 3D Systems
With the advent of 3D printing, the manufacturing industry embarked on another industrial revolution. We’ve seen tremendous opportunities for additive technologies to complement traditional technologies, enabling manufacturers to transform their workflows and produce parts that were either not achievable before, or not economical. Innovations in 3D printing hardware have enabled greater precision, repeatability, and productivity. Combine this with material innovations that yield a broader set of properties, and you have the necessary ingredients allowing 3D printing to address a range of applications in the product development cycle – from prototyping to production. In that respect, you can look at these innovations as the next step of traditional factories becoming increasingly digital; cost-effectively turning out single-use and durable parts in a more agile and efficient operating environment. The decision made by UNYQ, Invest Cast and Metro Aerospace to include additive manufacturing (AM) in their workflows make them forerunners of plastics additive manufacturing industrialization. UNYQ Pioneers Mass Customization of Medical Devices with 3D Printing UNYQ (“unique”) is a pioneer in 3D printed medical wearables. The company creates innovative mass customized orthopedic devices to help manage spinal conditions. Using 3D printing, UNYQ has been able to redefine not only how these devices are designed, but also to create an aesthetically beautiful yet practical end product. In close collaboration with 3D Systems and Studio Bitonti, UNYQ developed Spine Wears, an award-winning stylish brace primarily used to treat adolescent scoliosis. The process is fully digital, from the initial comprehensive patient scan to modeled anatomical corrections to the 3D printing using approved biocompatible plastic, all printed on the 3D Systems SLS thermoplastics additive production system. Encouraged by the strong reception from the medical community, UNYQ recently introduced a next-generation 3D printed prosthetic leg socket. Each custom socket combines a perfect fit with designer-inspired exterior and integrated sensors for monitoring the wearer’s activity. Invest Cast Redefines their Digital Foundry with Wax 3D Printing Founded in 1981, Invest Cast, Inc. has steadily grown its casting, machining and fabrication business with an emphasis on innovation. Using the latest technologies, training, and techniques, Invest Cast now has three U.S. locations where it produces superior quality investment castings and delivers unmatched industry and technical experience. In the company’s ongoing mission to deliver exceptional projects with unmatched customer service, Invest Cast recently purchased two 3D Systems ProJet® MJP 2500 IC 3D printers to provide fast and cost-effective, tool-less wax pattern production. By eliminating tooling, 3D printing helps them reduce the time and expense of transitioning from a design to a cast part. Invest Cast reports exceptional surface finish, dimensional stability and castability with the help of AM, and is now able to serve more customers with greater efficiency. The ability to make final cast parts without tooling a mold has given Invest Cast’s customers the freedom to test multiple iterations quickly and cost-effectively, ultimately enabling them to arrive at better final parts.
Using 3D printing, UNYQ has been able to redefine not only how these devices are created, but also to create an aesthetically beautiful yet practical end product