Shawn Craig, project manager and mechanical engineer at Distek, Inc., explained, “Our bioreactor is a state-of-the-art system, and in keeping with our brand’s identity, it was important to offer a motor adapter that not only functioned well but looked truly professional with a smooth surface finish. Having researched our options, injection molding didn’t make sense, given the fast turnaround and small lot sizes we needed. We quickly discovered that 3D printing was our fastest and most cost effective route.”
Though Distek required only a small quantity of motor adapters, it needed multiple styles of adapters to fit various controller models. Originally, Distek 3D printed the adapters using the FDM (fused deposition modeling) process out of ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene). While the FDM printed adapters were functional, the costs were high, and the adapters had an unprofessional, coarse finish, including visible additive material layer lines.
“3D printing with these state-of-the art materials gives us professional-looking, commercial-grade parts, with no up-front investment and zero risk.”
Distek approached its long-standing additive manufacturer, InterPRO Additive Manufacturing Group, to inquire about the feasibility of printing parts that were not only durable but also attractive.
In turn, InterPRO contacted both LOCTITE®, for its materials expertise, and Origin, a Silicon Valley additive manufacturing start-up with a production-ready 3D printer that can print LOCTITE materials. With an understanding of the demands of the application, LOCTITE supplied a durable, high-impact material that delivers a consumer-grade finish. The Origin printer produced two adapters in a single run in only 2.5 hours – with zero tooling costs and no lead time.
“The smooth surface of these adapters rivals anything you could get by injection molding,” noted Dan Straka, general manager of InterPRO. “High tech and consumer-facing products need to function well, look good and last. The most exciting thing is, by offering these types of solutions to our customers, we unlock opportunities for them to address a much larger market and much more diverse market segments.”
“Things are moving faster and faster for our customers and we need to be nimble in providing solutions that fulfill their needs,” said Craig. “3D printing with these state-of-the-art materials gives us professional-looking, commercial-grade parts – with no up-front investment and zero risk. What’s more, they are half the cost of FDM-printed parts.”