Philmac Adopts 3D Printing for Prototype Tooling to Enable More Complex Design

Philmac Adopts 3D Printing for Prototype Tooling to Enable More
Complex Design

3D Systems’ On Demand Manufacturing experts help Philmac find
the right process and materials for 3D printed production tooling

CHALLENGE:

Create a 3D printed
tool for complex component manufacture.

SOLUTION:

Partnering with 3D
Systems to validate a methodology and material for 3D printed production
tooling.

RESULTS:

  • DuraForm¨
    HST proves capable of withstanding temperature and pressure of injection
    tooling
  • Philmac
    unlocks new technique for complex injection parts
  • Materials
    and expertise from 3D Systems facilitate successful process testing

    Improving the design of a part within a system is rarely
    straightforward. From the simplest enhancement to the most complex, a cycle of
    iterations can be expected to verify the design during prototyping and
    implement it in production. During a recent test for a new valve product
    design, this experience played out for Philmac, a global leader in designing
    and manufacturing specialist fittings and valves for the transfer, control and
    application of water.

    Accustomed to accelerating its design cycle with 3D printing for
    prototyping, Philmac expanded its use of 3D printing to prototype tooling in
    order to enable a more complex geometry. Teaming with 3D Systems On Demand
    Manufacturing experts in Australia, Philmac conducted a successful trial of
    this new methodology to bring its new concept to life.

    3D Systems On Demand Manufacturing delivers
    the technologies, materials and expertise to support the entire product
    development lifecycle from fast turn and advanced prototypes to appearance
    models and low volume production.

    Fast design
    validation

    As one of Philmac’s new valve product designs was undergoing
    testing, an opportunity to improve its function in silty water applications was
    identified. Comprised of a body, piston, cap and spring, the valve design was
    revised accordingly and a prototype was 3D printed for testing. After refining
    the designs based on prototype test feedback, they were reprinted for another
    test cycle and confirmed. Bringing the design revision into production meant
    two of the components would need a tool adjustment before samples could be
    manufactured. Whereas one of the tools could be adjusted by remaking a core,
    the other tool was far more complex and could not be achieved easily with the
    existing equipment. With a range of options available for component
    manufacture, Philmac had a decision to make. It could use aluminium prototype
    tooling, machine parts directly from Acetal rod, or seize the opportunity to
    trial a 3D printed tool. After discussions around cost and timing, Philmac
    decided to explore a 3D printing solution.

    Partnering
    for the right solution

    After contacting 3D Systems’ local Australian office, Philmac and
    3D Systems met to discuss the solutions available. Though the project would be
    the first of its kind for each local office, the initial design review left
    both companies feeling confident about their choice in partner. With 3D printed
    tooling design guidelines provided by an overseas sister company in the Aliaxis
    group, Philmac began researching desirable material properties to begin
    benchmark testing. In parallel, 3D Systems produced a series of material plaques
    for evaluation and provided Philmac’s team with background technical
    information to bolster its research.

    Testing
    material properties

    Philmac conducted comparative testing on the material plaques to
    determine the suitability of the various materials. Testing included heating the plaques to
    analyze material behavior at elevated temperatures, after which several plaques
    were ruled out. Following temperature testing, Philmac switched gears to
    measure pressure performance.

    The four remaining plaques were subjected to compressive loads of
    85kN and 100kN. Pressure performance results reduced the contending plaques to
    two. To determine the final material, Philmac repeated heat testing, this time
    heating each material to 180ÀöC, as the final selection would need to withstand
    the 220ÀöC melt-temperature of Acetal. On the basis of retaining both it shape
    and lettering, Philmac’s testing pointed to DuraForm¨ HST, a fiberreinforced
    SLS material with high temperature resistance. Philmac’s final evaluation
    involved comparing the properties of DuraForm HST with other 3D printing
    materials that had been identified in previous research on successful 3D
    printed production tools. 3D Systems provided additional plaques in DuraForm
    HST enabling Philmac to evaluate the material for machining and polishing
    suitability. Philmac was especially pleased with machining results.

    Fully
    finished test parts on demand

    Many of Philmac’s injection mold tools are family based and use
    change over cores and cavities. To test the 3D printed tooling, Philmac
    selected an existing tool that suited the 3D printed cavities based on the
    insert size required. For installation, the test team designed a steel ejector
    sleeve and nozzle inserts into the initial tool concept. With its design
    finalized and material determined, Philmac placed an order for the cavity set
    with 3D Systems On Demand Manufacturing and received finished parts within the
    week. From there, the inserts were machined to fit the ejector, nozzle and gate
    inserts and sized for fit into the tool.

    Trial day
    and results

    For the initial trial, Philmac loaded the tool to the injection
    machine to test the ejector function. Cooling circuits had been designed into
    the inserts, and air was connected to the tool for cooling, along with manual
    air directed onto the insert surfaces in between shots. As part of Philmac’s
    testing precautions, the tooling team first applied mold release to assist with
    the release of the part. Beginning with 75% of the calculated weight and lower
    pressures for the initial shot,

    Philmac started the molding process and incrementally increased
    the shot and pressure until a full part was produced. At each stage, Philmac’s
    team checked the 3D printed blocks with an infrared thermometer to ensure
    recommended temperature ranges were reached at the surface and target before
    commencing the next cycle. In the next phase, Philmac increased hold pressure
    to achieve a packed part. To mitigate the risk of material sticking to a thin
    rib on the core side of the tool, Philmac’s team reapplied mold release and
    hand polished the rib with sandpaper between shots to help keep the surface
    smooth. The settings were then increased until a stable part weight was
    achieved. According to Philmac’s tooling team, the 3D printed tool was a
    success and should be capable of making an additional 50 parts without
    incident.

    Could 3D Systems’ experts and On
    Demand Manufacturing services help you succeed in your next project? Whether
    you need fast turn 3D printed parts, advanced prototyping with assembly and
    finishing services or low volume manufacturing including CNC, urethane casting
    and injection tooling, 3D Systems’ On Demand Manufacturing services can help.

    Contact 3D Systems for more information on its complete On Demand Manufacturing
    services.

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