Having explored a number of industrial-grade solutions for the production, Celoplás invested in an FDM Fortus 450mc 3D printer from Stratasys local partner, CODI. Today, the system is deployed extensively for a range of tooling applications, including 3D printed fixtures for quality validation on the manufacturing floor, as well as jigs to perform dimensional measurements on injection molded parts. But some of the biggest manufacturing efficiencies gained have been for end-of-arm tooling, which played a key role in proving the business case for FDM additive manufacturing.
On the production line, handling tools for robotic arms are essential for removing parts from molds at the end of each injection molding cycle and then depositing them onto a conveyor belt to be packed. Traditionally, these tools are milled out of aluminum and acetal. But the process is time consuming and the design of the tools is limited compared to what’s achievable with additive manufacturing.
“Since using the Fortus 450mc, we discovered that we were no longer limited by the constraints of traditional production methods when producing the handling tools for the robotic arms,” said Cortez. “For example, complex geometries such as internal air channels and curved trajectories were not possible using CNC. We can now optimize the design of the tool with intricate and minute detail, knowing that the Fortus 450mc will deliver a complex tool quickly, but with high accuracy and repeatability. Indeed, with the 3D printer we can fuse parts in one single print to achieve more organic geometries.” In addition to solving the geometry challenge, replacing the aluminum robotic handling tool with a much lighter thermoplastic counterpart has delivered additional benefits.
“The 3D printed handling tool is 40% lighter than our previous metal tool. This alleviates the strain on the robotic arms significantly, which is crucial because not only does this increase their speed of movement and productivity, but a lighter tool reduces the rate of degradation of the robot,” explained Cortez. “We are also able to produce the tools much faster, approximately 40% less time compared to the conventional methods, and at a much lower cost.”