Swepac chose to 3D print both prototypes and their pre-production series. With previous 3D printing experience, Tomas Johansson used a local service bureau, TA Engineering. The company was founded by Tibor Albert, who, fortunately, have previously worked with Tomas at Swepac.
The components that needed to be 3D printed were a top and bottom part to house the RFID tag, and a case for the keyhole.
In the design phase, Tomas made sure all 3d models were exported from SOLIDWORKS directly to TA Engineering. The files were then converted to the 3D print file format stl, the standard file format regardless of what printer type you use. The stl file allows for the model to be sliced in to many thin layers.
At TA Engineering, a minor change was made to the build angle, that is, the angle at which the component is printed. Adhesion is often lower in the Z axis, and by tweaking the build angle, you affect the mechanical properties. But in Swepac’s case, by changing the build angle, the 3D printed part got a smoother surface finish.
All parts were printed on a 3D Systems ProJet MJP 2500. The technology is Multi Jet Printing, which inkjets material droplets in thin layers on to a build plate.
Swepac also wanted to use self-tapping screws to assemble the RFID key casing. TA Engineering therefore chose the material Visijet ProFlex M2G DUR Transparent, developed for the 3D Systems printer ProJet MJP 2500. The material fit the bill perfectly.
”Another challenge in finding a fitting material, was the need for colouring the part”, says Tibor Albert, CEO, TA Engineering. “The final part has a black top and a red bottom part. We first used ABS, but the end part was too brittle for the self-tapping screws. The Visijet material we chose is both strong and a bit flexible, which suited our needs.”
Every set of parts take about four hours to print. They are then painted, dried and assembled.
”The production workflow has been hassle-free”, says Tomas Johansson. “All we need to do is to upload SOLIDWORKS files to TA Engineering, for next-day delivery.”
”Time is always of essence for the company, and we use 3D printing to cross the finish line faster.”, says Tomas Johansson. “3D printing also enables us to make design and functionality changes in the prototoyping phase, something not possible in a pure digital environment. It’s much easier making decisions with a physical model in your hand – the technology really allows us move smoothly from idea to tool.”
Swepac are so pleased with the results, that they will use 3D printing to manufacture a pre-production series of RFID keys, to be tested by select customers.
”We will definitely use more 3D printing in the future. It is a great advantage when we need to produce prototypes or test performance.”
Products: 3D Systems ProJet MJP 2500
Industries: Application Case