Eplus3D, Hangzhou, China, reports it is using Additive Manufacturing to prototype sheet metal components, offering significant time and cost savings for short-run and prototype production.
Sheet metal fabrication is widely used across many sectors, including electronics, automotive, telecommunications and medical, where in many cases it forms the ‘skeleton’ of the final product. The design and manufacture of sheet metal parts is becoming a key stage in the development of new products, with a trend towards diversified, but low-volume, production.
Eplus3D was recently approached by a Chinese company specialising in the development and manufacture of car seats and a main supplier to automotive makers such as Ford, Chang’an, Geely and Great Wall. The company needed to unveil a new car seat solution within a week, but the tools for the core sheet metal parts were still in progress, meaning the sheet metal parts could not be produced in time.
The car seat set consisted of seventy-eight pieces, with thicknesses of between 1.5 to 2.5 mm. Most of the parts had ribs and bumps, rendering them unsuitable for production by laser cutting or CNC machining, but potentially suitable for Additive Manufacturing.
After Eplus3D analysed the component design data, 316L stainless steel was selected and the parts were additively manufactured using three E-plus EP-M260 machines. The resulting parts were polished in a grinding process, with the final parts delivered to the customer in just seven days.
In another project, Eplus3D was approached by a manufacturer of silencers. The company required a silencer made of four components with a uniform shell thickness of 0.73 mm and a structural area thickness of 0.6 mm.
Given that the sheet metal structure for the four silencer components is complex, with precise measurements and thin wall structures, it cannot be produced by either cutting and bending or milling, leaving the only manufacturing options either punching or Additive Manufacturing.
While punching is able to replicate original designs to a high degree of precision, the process is both time-consuming and costly. Additive Manufacturing enabled the production of the four silencer components in just three days from data processing to product delivery.