CRP Technology 3D prints sensor housing box for IMAL using Windform materials

3D printing materials and services provider CRP Technology has deployed its proprietary Windform XT 2.0 polymer to fabricate an end-use sensor housing box for one of its clients. 

Commissioned by the machine part producer IMAL, the functional quality control component was entirely created using additive manufacturing, and later finished using CNC machining. By deploying its end-to-end manufacturing service, CRP was able to rapidly produce the parts that IMAL required, with strong resistance qualities and a high level of surface finish. 

The final product left new-adopters IMAL very impressed with the level of precision that could be achieved via CRP’s 3D printing solutions. “This is our first experience with professional 3D printing, and we are very satisfied,” commented an IMAL spokesperson. “Working with CRP Technology we had collaboration, high quality, competence and an open and constructive approach towards us.”

IMAL used CRP's 3D printing services to produce a sensor housing box (pictured) for a client. Image via CRP Technology.
IMAL used CRP’s 3D printing services to produce a sensor housing box (pictured) for a client. Image via CRP Technology.

CRP Technology’s range of 3D printing solutions 

Although CRP’s parent company was founded in 1970, CRP Technology wasn’t established until 1996. The original business had strong links to the motorsport industry, and CRP’s US base is located near the NASCAR headquarters. Now the umbrella organization CRP Group Network includes motorbike manufacturer, Energica as well as CRP USA and CRP Meccanica.

CRP’s additive manufacturing portfolio comprises a line of 3D printing materials and its Rapid Prototyping Department, which houses 3D printers from 3D Systems and RICOH amongst others. The company’s current Windform range includes its F1, XP, SP, FR, GT, LX and RL composites, which form its TOP-LINE family of polymers. The firm also launched its FR2 material in February 2020, a new flame-retardant plastic for 3D printing. 

Even though CRP made its Windform line of proprietary materials unavailable to 3D printing bureaus in 2019, the firm’s thermoplastics have since found a wide range of applications. Joyson Safety Systems (JSS), a Michigan-headquartered mobility safety specialist, used CRP’s Windform SP to manufacture a functional airbag housing container prototype.

Elsewhere, CRP’s Windform SP was deployed to 3D print a functional National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) duct for the Streamliner race vehicle. The car went on to break a longstanding land speed record at Bonneville Speed Week in 2018. Electric motorcycle manufacturer Energica, meanwhile, used CRP’s FR2 polymer to manufacture cell pouch frames for its battery pack prototypes.

Now, following an order from IMAL on behalf of an unspecified “important customer,” CRP has found another end-use application for its TOP-LINE 3D printing materials. 

CRP's 3D printing technology has been utilized within a range of applications, varying from motorsport to aerospace (pictured). Image via Alba Orbital.
CRP’s 3D printing technology has been utilized within a range of applications, varying from motorsport to aerospace (pictured). Image via Alba Orbital.

Moving from mass-production to 3D printing

IMAL has been involved in the global machinery business since 1970, and its expertise generally lies in the production of wood particles, plywood, MDF and OSB materials. When the company received an important order for sensor housing boxes, it realized that it couldn’t achieve the level of quality or customization required, using its existing production methods. As a result, the firm turned to CRP’s range of 3D printing services for the solution.

IMAL’s client needed the quality control system produced promptly, so CRP had to create the part quickly, while still giving it the performance characteristics required for its end-use application. IMAL’s customer also requested a component with a high level of resistance to stress and heat, but not at the expense of its final finish, as it would be placed at the end of the production cycle. 

“The sensor housing box had to be in motion, and with the right mechanical characteristics to be fully functional,” said the IMAL spokesperson. “In addition, the box had to be aesthetically pleasing since the quality control systems are not only the flagship of our company, but also on top of sensor technology.”

Leveraging its vast experience in the industry, CRP was able to advise IMAL on the best 3D printing process and materials for the project. Ultimately, the firms settled on using Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) along with CRP’s carbon-composite Windform XT 2.0 material. The choice turned out to be inspired, as the sensor housing box became electromagnetically shielded thanks to the carbon-filled material, which was an unexpected bonus. 

Using SLS 3D printing allowed the sensor housing box (pictured) to be produced with a higher level of detail than traditional mass production methods. Image via CRP Technology.

3D printing CRP’s sensor housing box

The production process began with an accurate analysis of IMAL’s CAM file, followed by 3D printing, which saw the sensor housing box fabricated as two separate shells. In order to achieve high level of feature tolerances, CRP worked with its subsidiary CRP Meccanica to CNC machine the parts using a 5-axis center on specialized jigging. 

Although other 3D printing materials aren’t compatible with CNC machining, CRP’s Windform range proved capable of adapting to the stresses and strains required by the process. Once the finished part had been checked by CRP Meccanica’s quality control department, it was delivered to IMAL, ready for it to supply to its customer. 

Throughout the production process, CRP provided IMAL with control reports based on numerous laser scans, in order to keep it updated with the part’s progress. The result was a very happy first-time client, which could turn out to be a repeat customer in future. 

“We turned to CRP Technology as we knew that they would support us during the entire creation process,” concluded the IMAL spokesperson. “They advised us on the best choice to get the product we wanted, and to manufacture it in the shortest possible time.”

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Featured image shows a sensor housing box  that CRP Technology 3D printed for its customer IMAL. Image via CRP Technology.