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Eight weeks. That’s how long it used to take Andreas Buchholz, head of research and development for Seuffer (seuffer.de)—a German supplier that makes injection-molded thermoplastic parts for vehicles and household appliances—to make a mold using a conventional CNC milling machine. Now, it takes Buchholz a few days.
“With Stratasys 3D (stratasys.com) printing, we can design first drafts of the injection mold within a few days and 3D print them in less than 24 hours for part evaluation,” Buchholz says.
The Stratasys 3D printer he uses costs about $1,300, while the conventional tooling costs more than $54,000. The combined time (98% faster than conventional tooling) and money savings (97% cheaper) allow Seuffer engineers to evaluate part design for performance and fit with newfound efficiency.
Seuffer also uses 3D printing technology to perform more specialized tasks, such as 3D printed molds, for its hot melt process to place a new layer of material, also known as “overmolding,” on top of low-melting point polyamide for electronic circuit boards.
This approach being used by Seuffer is being used by a variety of other companies, as well. “More and more manufacturers are adopting 3D printing tools as a complementary injection molding solution—not only to cost effectively test products before mass production, but also to produce customized parts,” observes Andy Middleton, general manager of Stratasys for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.