Nov 27, 2015 | By Benedict

Design engineering firm ReitlingerEngineering has reduced the development costs for one of its labeling machines by using a 3D printer to produce special 3D printed clamps. The precisely measured 3D printed "jaws" are designed to hold a product in place for labeling.

In order to precisely affix a label to a product, the product in question must be constantly aligned within the labeling station. To ensure that this is the case, Reitlinger produces a set of jaws which wrap around each side of the product. When producing these customized jaws for each product, engineers require the exact dimensions of the product. “The precise geometry is absolutely vital and remodeling is very costly and time consuming,” designer Matthias Körner explained.

Unfortunately, many product manufacturers are unable to provide the CAD files for their soon-to-be-labeled product, which means measurements must be taken by hand. The manually procured dimensions of the product must then be inputted to the CAD software, with which the tailor-made jaws are designed. The plastic jaws are then CNC machined from smooth plastic material, before being fitted into a universal aluminum holder. This is an expensive and time-consuming procedure, so Reitlinger sought a better solution. Luckily, the ideal solution was close at hand—German 3D printing firm German RepRap supplied Reitlinger with one of its X350 3D printers, which Reitlinger could use to produce a 3D printed alternative to the CNC machined plastic jaws. The X350 3D printer features a rectangular build platform and a 350 x 200 x 210 mm build envelope, and can print at a minimum layer thickness of 0.02 mm with a positioning accuracy of +/- 0.1 mm.

Reitlinger’s new technique completely eliminates the margin of error associated with manually measuring the dimensions of products. Rather than continue with this ineffective method, the company now uses a David SLS-2 3D scanner to procure the exact shape and size of a product, before converting that data into a CAD model. A perfectly customized set of jaws can then be designed from the CAD model of the product, which can be printed using the X350 3D printer. “3D printing gives the designer extensive design freedom. We looked for a shape that would take into account the flux of forces in the part,” Körner explained.

The 3D printed alternative to the existing clamp is approximately 70% lighter, which leads to faster production cycles. The precise fit achieved with the 3D printed design also eliminates the need for adjusting screws on the aligning jaws.

Thanks to the German RepRap X350 3D printer, ReitlingerEngineering was able to give the customer a set of 3D printed aligning jaws in just a few days. “This procedure ultimately provided a complete solution from problem definition right through to the finished part, which reduces costs and material and at the same time provides new design possibilities for the customer,” Körner concluded.

German RepRap recently released the ‘pro’ version of its X350 3D printer, which is equipped with a dual extruder and USB interface.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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