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Devices and test gauges implemented quickly
Additive manufacturing has also found its way from pure prototyping to fixture construction. Companies use the technology to quickly and easily produce equipment and tool components for mass production.
As of late, Metusan Metallwarenhandelsgesellschaft m.b.H. uses an EVO-lizer FDM machine from EVO-tech GmbH for this exact purpose.
Additive manufacturing as an alternative
For half a year, Metusan has also been using an EVO-lizer FDM device made by Upper Austrian company, EVO-tech GmbH. “I’ve personally been interested in the topic for a while. After a company vote we decided to look into whether 3D printing could benefit our company,” says Christoph Gruber, Head of Tool Manufacturing and Apprentice Training at Metusan, on the implementation of additive manufacturing.
From the outset it was clear that additive manufacturing was only possible for fixture construction and the production of equipment and tools. “The main starting point was a new machine for copper pipe machining. We needed bending inserts that are soft enough not to damage the copper pipes. We would have had to purchase additional tools in order to produce tool inserts using conventional procedures.
In addition, calibrating these additional tools would have led to further delays,” explains Gruber, adding: “As long as you are only replacing existing devices in the same way, or producing very simple clamping jaws, it’s usually faster with conventional milling. But as soon as the parts increase in complexity or a completely new product is required, additive manufacturing is definitely an advantage.”
We use additive manufacturing to produce operating equipment. For us, this results in clear advantages when it comes to throughput times.
– Christoph Gruber, Head of Tool Manufacturing, Metusan GmbH
Added benefit is often recognized later
It is often not clear where all the potential applications for additive manufacturing are in an entry-level project. “In Metusan’s case, a device for clamping bent copper tubes for cutting was a priority. The bottom part of a mold shell was required, in which a tube bent in multiple places can be inserted. Subsequently, a cylinder presses a counterpart from above. The tube held in this way can then be safely brought to a circular saw blade for cutting,” explains Markus Kaltenbrunner, Managing Director of EVO-tech GmbH, with regard to the entry-level project.
“It was possible to start using this mount much faster than usual. Making this in ABS plastic only took an hour. Even if we need new pipe geometries, we can now produce suitable mounts within a very short time,” says Gruber.
In addition, the EVO-lizer was used to make gauges to easily control three-dimensional pipe geometries during production. “We would not have been able to produce these gauges with our existing machines. We would have needed a 5-axis milling machine. This allowed us to have a finished test gauge in just 1.5 hours. For quality assurance as well, the new machine enables us to quickly produce the required equipment,” says the division manager.
Spare parts from the “printer”
It is likely that half a year ago, when the EVO-lizer was purchased, no one at Metusan would have expected the FDM machine to also be producing spare parts for machines and plants, as well as many other tools. The range of applications for additive manufacturing is thus far greater than initially anticipated. Gruber is obviously happy about this and adds: “We are excited to see how the technology will evolve and what we will do next with the device. For us, the EVO-lizer is definitely a worthwhile addition to our mechanical equipment, and in EVO-tech we have found a partner who has competently and reliably helped us to get to grips with this new technology.”