3D printing opens up new possibilities for solving manufacturing challenges. In the best case, based on the customer’s solution’s task and the purpose, we create the most optimal solution – all this with less weight and smaller size and well functioning, good looking form. In practice, a comprehensive solution is often already at hand, which gives guidelines for development. However, development is still worthwhile, as even in these cases, we can usually make many improvements.
Our customer’s component is a good example where metal printing greatly simplified the production of an earlier, difficult-to-implement structure. Initially, small, 0.8 mm drilled holes in the thin plate-like part always tended to close when the tubular and the plate-like parts were welded together. As a new solution, we printed rectangular channels. Printing replaced welding completely. Thanks to the printing and the newly designed shape, the holes are always open, and the resulting wider channel area further improves the fluid flow. The teardrop-shaped design of the threaded part makes the component lighter compared to the previous rectangular shape.
Polymer printing helped to improve the manufacturing process further. It was anticipated that the plate-like part could vibrate during machining. A polymer holder with a counter-shape of the body was printed to work against vibration. When the workpiece is pressed firmly against the holder, it can be easily machined with support, and no vibrations occur. Alignment grooves were added to the holder to simplify alignment in machining.
As is often the case, printing the customer’s part could be made with less weight than before. Reducing work steps saved time and money. As an added benefit, Inconel provides good corrosion resistance and high strength. The obtained surface hardness solved the previously experienced problems caused by wear. In this case, the redesign and printing smoothened the manufacturing process but also improved the performance of the part.
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