3D printing entered serial production. COVID-19 pandemic has helped

Over the years, 3D printing was treated as support for the production process. However, it was still very rarely used in serial production. Everything changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 3D printing industry quickly managed to switch to the production of the necessary equipment for medical facilities. Thus, showed that the use of 3D printers can successfully complement manufacturing processes in many companies, including the manufacturing sector.

3D printing entered serial production.
The COVID-19 pandemic has helped

Over the years, 3D printing was treated as support for the production process. However, it was still very rarely used in serial production. Everything changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 3D printing industry quickly managed to switch to the production of the necessary equipment for medical facilities. Thus, showed that the use of 3D printers can successfully complement manufacturing processes in many companies, including the manufacturing sector.

The use of industrial 3D printers during SARS CoV-2

Many companies reached for the possibilities of this technology during the COVID-19 pandemic. They produced medical equipment necessary for doctors and nurses 24/7. Thanks to their activities, 3D printing crossed the border between small-lot production and serial production. Who will benefit most?

12,000 protective face shields for 111 medical facilities. Everything in a few weeks. This is how 3DGence - responded to the needs of healthcare. In such crisis situations, when warehouses ran out of assortment, the most important thing was to provide medical staff with the necessary equipment for work. The use of 3D printing technology makes it possible
Andrzej Kukuła, President of the board, 3DGence

3D printing in prototyping

The beginnings of 3D printing technology date back to the early 1970s, which means that it has been used for several decades around the world. From now on, the creators have been working on improving the equipment and materials used to make prints. With the introduction of new filaments and increasingly efficient printers, the field of additive manufacturing in industry is also expanding. More and more companies are deciding to implement a 3D printer in their machine park due to a number of benefits.

For a long time only prototypes were being created on 3D devices. This is still the case today. Companies build and improve prototypes on an ongoing basis, eliminating errors. Because they do it on site and use their own materials, the whole process is faster and above all cheaper than when working with external suppliers.What’s more, the 3D printer does not take up space on the production lines, and this prevents downtime and high costs.

From prototyping to projects on request

It is not surprising, therefore, that industrial companies have begun to use it also for the production of end elements. First of all, for on-site production of spare parts for machines and production lines. As a result, they can reduce the amount of money spent on storing such parts. They also become independent of external suppliers. Thanks to 3D printing, worn out or broken machine parts can be quickly replaced with counterparts printed on-site. It is a good alternative for companies when they are waiting for the delivery of parts from another country. In this case, 3D technology allows significant time and money savings. It is used primarily by companies from the automotive industry, including Opel, but also by companies from the household appliances sector, i.e. Electrolux.

Interestingly, 3D printing also allows companies to personalize products and tailor them to the needs of individual customers. The automotive industry is reaching for this technology again. Owners of the Mini Cooper from BMW can thus enjoy cars, which appearance accurately reflects their expectations.

Get the 3D printed parts you need just in time

Success in 5 days - fast serial production at your fingertips

However, 3D printing could not stop only on prototypes, spare parts or small-lot production. Still spectacular examples of the use of this technology in large-scale production were missing. The situation was changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The progressing problems of health care led to the fact that the world began to look for solutions available immediately, guaranteeing accuracy and speed of action.

Such manufacturing involves the production of a large number of identical products using the same technology. 3D printing may already be an alternative to conventional production methods. The key in this case is the preparation of machine code that will allow to make a 3D model in the shortest possible time. Each product can undergo such optimization and be adapted to serial production using 3D printing.

In difficult and unpredictable moments, such as a pandemic, the most important thing is the flexibility of business and production, i.e. the ability to adapt to new conditions as soon as possible. 3D printing turned out to be a great example of such flexibility. Due to the great demand for personal protective equipment, we designed a prototype of the face shield element and within two days we completed the rest of the parts needed for assembly. Then we contacted one of the hospitals asking them to test our face shields. We have analyzed comments from medical staff and made the necessary corrections to the prototype. Thanks to this, we prepared and tested the prototype and started mass production of equipment for doctors in just five days from reporting the demand.
Adam Przepolski, head of 3D printing services department, 3DGence

How did 3DGence use 3D printers for rapid production?

In order to be able to produce as many elements as possible in the assembly of face shields, the R&D department in 3DGence optimized 3D printing using CAD design programs and fully utilized the possibilities of 3DGence SLICER 4.0 software. Optimization of 3D printing allows us to print within 25 minutes two elements of the shield, placed on the table of one 3D printer – 3DGence DOUBLE P255

3DGence began the production of medical equipment in its own machine park, equipped with dozens of machines for additive manufacturing. To make the elements of face shields, the company’s experts used 32 professional 3D printers – DOUBLE P255, which were changed and prepared for mass production so as to provide printouts of the required quality in a short time. The 3DGence team worked in two shifts. Within two weeks, 12,000 face shields were produced, which went to 111 medical facilities.

Close-up of 3D printed protective shield on professional 3D printer- 3DGence DOUBLE P255
The production of PPE face shields
Close-up of 3D printed protective shield on professional 3D printer- 3DGence DOUBLE P255 holding by a 3D printing enginner
3D printed shield produced on 3D printer - 3DGence DOUBLE P255
Close-up of 3D printed protective shield on professional 3D printer- 3DGence DOUBLE P255 holding by a 3D printing enginner
Protective face shield frame assemblies

Get the 3D printed parts you need just in time

Quality comes first. How can this be achieved with 3D printing?

Large-scale production requires the use of high-quality equipment. It is worth remembering that on the market today you can find smaller, desktop 3D printers and industrial 3D machines. The latter are adapted to the needs of larger production processes. First of all, they are produced of very high quality materials and components. Thanks to this, they guarantee adequate performance and accuracy of printing. Manufacturers of such 3D printers also offer their customers tested, certified filaments compatible with the devices, as well as ready-made material profiles that can be used in the printing process. It all translates into excellent visual and dimensional quality of prints.

Professional industrial 3D printers usually have a larger print area. This allows to produce large components. Users of such equipment also receive expert support from the manufacturer. Their knowledge, experience and advice can be particularly helpful especially at the beginning of work with a 3D printer.

The right equipment, more and more durable materials and ever-expanding knowledge about the possibilities of 3D printing have a chance to lead to a real revolution in industry. Fast and flexible production at a large scale is now possible. What’s more, it allows to become independent of external suppliers, which is particularly important in the event of closed borders or restrictions on transport.

Until recently, 3D printing technology in industry was mainly used in the process of rapid prototyping of models. Today, 3D printers are used to support production processes, produce functional parts or necessary tools. What's more, using the example of printed face shields elements, we show that additive manufacturing technology can already be boldly used for mass production
Radosław Wróbel, 3D Printing Application Engineer at 3DGence

3D printing has proven that it can support production

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected companies around the world. Not only the work system has changed, but also the approach to introducing new solutions. Today, what counts is technologies that provide flexibility. 3D printing has proven that it can support the production process even on a large scale and allows it to effectively and quickly adapt to new conditions.

Choose proven 3D printer for professional use

3D printing can help you with many many different applications through many materials.

If you have no idea what 3D printer will be proper for your project, you can consult it with our 3D printing engineers: [email protected]

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