3D printing overcomesinjection molding, evenin series production

voxeljet service center for additive manufacturing: 500 cable clamps in just one job box. The British LED solution provider Spanlite manufactures customised LED lighting.

To optimise the cable management of its LED panels and reduce cable damage, the manufacturer required a two-piece interlocking cable clamp. As a first step, Spanlite wanted to produce a prototype for functional evaluation. For this reason, Spanlite turned to the 3D printing specialists at voxeljet UK.

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High Speed Sintering process: 3D printing for finest structures

The HSS process is a sintering technology in which a powder material – in this case polyamide 12 – is selectively fused. To achieve this, the recoater applies hair-thin layers of powder material to the building platform, which are then selectively jetted by the print head with an infrared-absorbing ink. By irradiating the layers with infrared light, the ink-printed areas fuse together, while the unprinted powder remains loose. These steps are repeated until the component is built up. In practice, several components are usually produced in a single job box to achieve maximum production efficiency.

However, thanks to the HSS process, Spanlite was able to produce and test different prototypes of the clamps simultaneously to determine the appropriate final design. It also meant that there was no need to test parts “off tool” as the prototyping process is exactly the same as the production process. A further challenge was that the clamps have to meet high mechanical loads, especially when they are plugged together.

The benefits of 3D printing in terms of geometric freedom, rapid prototyping and product customization are already widespread and well known. However, 3D printing also offers a good production alternative for components that at first glance appeared visually and geometrically trivial. So it doesn’t always have to be complex or seemingly paradoxical geometries. Even with simple components, 3D printing is pushing the limits of what is constructively possible further and further, and in doing so initiates a change in constructive thinking.

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