Tessa’s Weekly Picks – 3D Printing on the Factory Floor


Tessa Blokland  


If you think 3D printing is not happening, you are wrong. It might be less visible for the outside world, but on the factory floor, 3D printing has found its place for quite some time. Here are a few examples of how 3D printing is integrated into the factory floor.

In 2000, Samsonite already started using 3D printing for prototyping. Since then they have used 3D printing for visual prototypes, proofs of concept, functional prototypes, and production line tools. One of the examples are the 3D printed jigs for holding the hard-shell suitcase in place (also top image). In the video, Vivien Cheng, Head of Product Development, and Nicolas De Vogelaere, Mechanical Engineer Tooling, both working at Samsonite Europe, explain how 3D printing has helped Samsonite to make the production of the suitcases more efficient.

Like many other automotive brands, Ford also uses 3D printing in their production lines. What I did not know is that one car model often has one specific tool for one specific task during the production line. Imagine the many customized tools (and money to make these, and the time to design and manufacture them)! With 3D printing, it is possible to create each specific 3D printed tool, because of the freedom of design, as well as establishing quick design iterations as well as lightweight tools.

Another worldwide operating company, Heineken, uses 3D printing for a range of applications, from the creation of fully functional parts to developing products that improve safety. Isabelle Haenen, Global Supply Chain Procurement at Heineken states on the website: “We’re still in the first stages of 3D printing, but we’ve already seen a 70-90% reduction of costs in the applications and a 70-90% decrease in delivery time of these applications.” Also here I would recommend watching this video. Haenen tells more about the use of 3D printing and you can actually see the 3D printed tools in use during the production of the bottles.

The last example of the use of 3D printing on the factory floor is at Ricoh, a leader in the printer and copier market. The Japanese manufacturing plant adopted 3D printing to modernize its Production Technology Center assembly line by replacing traditional metal tooling with customized, lightweight 3D printed jigs and fixtures. By doing so they have improved manufacturing efficiency while minimizing manual tooling errors. You can see here the 3D printed fixture produced in anti-static ABS plastic.

LEO Lane_Weekly Pick_3DPrintingontheFactoryFloor

Each of Tessa’s weekly picks is a curated group of 3D printed designs, based on the week’s chosen theme. If you would like to offer a theme for Tessa, or if you have your own 3D printed weekly picks you would like to see featured, please let us know by commenting below. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the latest weekly picks every week in your mailbox.

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