3-D Printing Finds Its Place

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How can a manufacturer of extrusion equipment make use of 3-D printing? It's difficult to imagine mass production of extruded product like pipe & tube at high speeds using such technology. Science Fiction, say some. Yet, somehow this exciting technology did find its way quite naturally in the hands our design specialists.

Rapid prototyping, indeed...

Walking by a Maillefer development line recently, one better understands the interest of employing 3-D printing. Rapid prototyping is obviously one avenue. Within a few hours, the R&D team can translate an innovative idea into a prototype ready to be held up to critics. Validated designs enter the catalog of parts for future production needs. Clearly, this accelerates the development cycle.

But, manufactured parts too!

Our development engineers reveal more. Extrusion lines are essentially composed metal parts. Each is designed to bear loads, or to withstand wear, repeated use, corrosion, etc. However, some parts have less constraints and could benefit from what is called rapid manufacturing. In fact with certain constructions, there is no option other than 3-D printing. It offers the only possibility for complex forms versus more traditional machining (e.g. parts with hidden cavities).

The use of 3-D printing for rapid manufacturing for certain parts shortens the entire process severely and brings manufacturing capabilities right on the designer's desk.

At work on our trial lines

3-D printing is showing initial results both in-house and to select customers. Our R&D lines, like our special tube extrusion line currently available for customer trials, require extensive development efforts to industrialize. Rapid prototyping and manufacturing allows our R&D team to quickly validate innovative solutions and have them rapidly working during production trials and demos with visiting customers.

Yves Zweifel
R&D Manager
yves.zweifel@maillefer.net

Topics: R&D, Pipe & tube manufacturing, Innovation

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