Integrating 3D printing into the company’s daily activities, was found to significantly reduce the cost of producing customized tooling, jigs, and fixtures, in addition to saving time by fabricating these parts in-house.
“The two main advantages of using BCN3D’s printers are significant time-savings and cost reductions achieved. One of the other benefits of working with these 3D printers is their great versatility,” said Marc Linares, Production Management Deputy at Tecalum Industrial. “We couldn’t be happier. The Sigmax is a reliable printer that helps us enormously to optimize our production workflow.”
BCN3D’s role in 3D printing
Founded in 2012 and based in Barcelona, BCN3D was the result of an on-going 3D printing project between Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya and Fundacio CIM (FabLabs), where it developed custom rapid prototyping equipment. In 2015, the company transitioned from a university 3D printing research lab and service provider, into a full-fledged business with its own range of 3D printers.
The 3D printer manufacturer is known for its Sigmax range of 3D printers, which it’s now supplying to Tecalum Industrial. Launched during the company’s first year, the Sigma FFF 3D printer was capable of fusing filaments to produce high-quality multi-color 3D prints, and had a slightly larger build volume than its predecessor, the BCN3D+. The next year, BCN3D found commercial success via US distributor DesignBox3D, which saw its 3D printers being sold in the US for the first time.
The company has since launched several upgrades and improvements to its Sigma range of 3D systems. BCN3D launched its R17 model of 3D printers in 2017, which featured a new fan system enabling better cooling, and a new line of six different hotends. This was followed by the releases of its new and improved Sigmax printer at TCT 2017, and the R19 system, which had an aluminum CNC machined body, and hardened steel drive gears.
BCN3D has since been looking to spread the reach of its technology, and achieved this via partnerships with Istanbul-based 3D printer reseller 3Dörtgen, and the Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) over the past year. Now the company’s additive manufacturing technology has found new applications in the production of industrial clamps for Tecalum industrial.
Tecalum Industrial’s 3D printing revolution
Headquartered in the Spanish city of Girona, Tecalum Industrial has been manufacturing aluminum components for the industrial sector for over 40 years. In order to produce these parts, which it designs from scratch, and tailors to the needs of each individual customer, the company needs very specific custom-made jigs and fixtures.
Initially, the Tecalum Industrial commissioned an external vendor to produce mechanized tooling such as nylon clamps, but this approach was found to be slow and expensive, and the company had to wait weeks for products to arrive. Due to the drawbacks of external production, Tecalum invested in its first BCN3D Sigmax printer in 2017, and since then it hasn’t looked back. The company now has four of these systems in constant operation, to keep production moving.
During the first year of running the systems, Tecalum Industrial recorded the cost of each individual tooling piece, and it recorded a saving of €25,000 versus the equivalent costs of using an external supplier. What’s more, the wide range of nozzle sizes available for the 3D printers, with each designed to offer optimal solutions for different needs, allowed the company to produce custom-made parts for its clients. The clamps for its five-axis machine for instance, are mostly 3D printed with larger-size nozzles, because they do not require a high level of detail, but they do need to be sturdy, in order to resist wear from their daily use.
Utilizing 3D printing has also brought efficiency benefits to the Tecalum Industrial. Because the company’s aluminium extrusion takes place in Canada at their sister company, Pexal Tecalum Canada, the Girona engineers usually have three weeks to make the necessary tooling, until the extrusion molds arrive. When Tecalum used external vendors, it’s engineers had to get the tooling right the first time, but now they’re able to iterate repeatedly, in order to achieve the best possible design, while maintaining the cost benefits of in-house production.
While Tecalum Industrial has used Polylactic Acid (PLA) materials since 2017, and the filament has proved to be reliable, the company is now considering switching to carbon fiber or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), to experiment with the potential of 3D printing.
The benefits of 3D printed tooling parts
Additive manufacturing technology has provided cost and efficiency savings to a range of industrial customers over the last year.
Australian metal additive manufacturing service provider Amaero signed an agreement with an automotive manufacturer to jointly develop 3D printed tooling in April 2020. The company will use its 3D printers to decrease the risk of manufacturing defects, by adding conformal cooling channels to the design.
Birmingham-based tool manufacturer Guhring UK introduced two additive manufacturing systems from the US-based composite and metal 3D printer provider Markforged into its custom cutting tool line in February 2020. The 3D printers have allowed the company to manufacture sample parts, replacement parts and prototypes in carbon fiber.
German 3D printer manufacturer voxeljet partnered with Spanish tooling maker Loramendi in June 2019, to develop its Industrialization of Core Printing (ICP) technology. The technique was designed to produce complex sand core tooling for casting processes.
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Featured image shows BCN3D’s Sigmax 3D printers, which Tecalum Industrial is using to create AM products. Image via BCN3D.