Additive Manufacturing

MAY 2018

ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING is the magazine devoted to industrial applications of 3D printing and digital layering technology. We cover the promise and the challenges of this technology for making functional tooling and end-use production parts.

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MAY 2018 Additive Manufacturing FEATURE / Production Tooling 30 By Peter Zelinski Unmasking Process Costs The tooling that had long been accepted was contributing to unnecessary manual labor for this PVD coater. Now, the company has improved its process with custom tools that are 3D-printed in production quantities. of a typical job. The company has a physical vapor deposition (PVD) process involving metal vapor applied within a vacuum that adds a micron-thick metal coating to all part surfaces not blocked by masking. Yet because some surfaces of almost any part must be kept free of the coating for the sake of assembly, masking is critical, and applying or at- taching masking to every piece can be a major labor component of PMT's work. As business has surged, employees have felt pushed to keep up. But company leaders recently found a way to relieve that pressure, moving to 3D printing to create custom masks for the coated parts in place of mask- ing using silicon or metal shields. The company bought first one "3ntr" brand poly- mer 3D printer from Plural Additive Manufacturing, then a second of these machines several months later, for the mass production of fixtures for masking. Now, in some cases, the labor content of PVD coating is substantially less, because the availability of in-house 3D printing has allowed PMT's staff to iteratively de- velop one-piece custom tools for parts that in the past required many separate touches to mask completely. The freedom to innovate and iterate is one of the most important benefits of having additive manufacturing capability in-house rather than relying on an external service bureau, according to PMT General Manager Adam Anaforian. Additive manufacturing can reduce the role any of a number of operations that might be part of a manufac- turing process today. For example, adopting AM might reduce the need for machining or, by enabling part con- solidation, it might reduce assembly. At PMT Shielding Solutions in Tigard, Oregon, 3D printing accomplished both these things. Yet perhaps the most significant impact it has had relates to manual labor. With 3D printing now used to produce tooling, the labor required for each job here is less, and the pace of this company's process is now less affected by manual effort than it once was. PMT specializes in coating plastic parts with metals, often aluminum and copper, to provide shielding against electro- magnetic or radio interference. Aerospace, defense and medical are all important industries, because all these sectors employ sensitive devices that cannot be allowed to fail because of a stray external signal. Thus, a medical device's plastic housing receiving metal shielding on its inside surfaces is an example As business has grown, the production floor at PMT Shielding Solutions has become full of completed jobs like this one—components PVD-coated in metal for electromagnetic shielding. An example of a tool redesigned for 3D printing. A tool that was once assembled from four pieces is now a single-piece unit perfectly fitting the part. Since 100 or more parts might receive this masking in any batch, setup time has been reduced.

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