3DP Applications

ExOne 3D printing saves MiMtechnik 13 weeks in product development time, tens of thousands in costs

Metal injection molding (MIM) supplier MiMtechnik, headquartered in Schmalkalden, Germany, has selected the ExOne Innovent+™ 3D printer to cut product development lead times. Applied to the production of custom fasteners, delivery time was reduced to a single week, with eradicated tooling costs.

As a result, MiMtechnik was able to close a customer order of 600,000 pieces per year, with plans to increase production to over one million in the future.

“This collaboration with MiMtechnik represents yet another avenue for us to deliver the benefits of our metal binder jetting to the market,” said Jared Helfrich, ExOne’s Chief Commercial Officer. “This is another compelling ExOne story where our customer, MiMtechnik, can offer their customers a quick, innovative and cost-effective production process to differentiate themselves in the marketplace and win new business.”

3D printed fasteners (316L) Photo via ExOne
3D printed fasteners (316L) Photo via ExOne

ExOne Innovent+™  technical specifications

The Innovent+ is a 3D printer specially created by ExOne for use in development and short-run productions. The machine uses the company’s proprietary binder jetting technology, with precision powder dispensing and a new state-of-the-art recoating mechanism. It has a build volume of 160 x 65 x 65 mm (6.3 x 2.5 x 2.5 in.). Minimum achievable layer thickness on the machine is 30 μm, and print resolution is 800 x 800 dpi. As with all ExOne 3D printers, the Innovent+ is capable of creating parts directly from 3D CAD files, making the technology easier to integrate with traditional engineering workflows. The machine is also capable of 3D printing many standard powder injection molding (PIM) feedstocks, including a number of stainless steel, tool steel, ceramics and tungsten alloys, a feature that was of particular value to MiMtechnik.

The Innovent+ 3D printer. Image via ExOne
The Innovent+ 3D printer. Image via ExOne

Product development in days rather than weeks

MiMtechnik’s building hardware fasteners are serially produced using MIM. However, before reaching this stage, product development and short-run productions are required to meet the specific needs of its customers.

At the beginning of this process the customer requests a sample based on a specific design. Then, with MIM, a prototype would be delivered to the customer within 10 to 14 weeks, at a tooling cost of between €10,000 and €20,000. Through migrating this process to additive manufacturing, MiMtechnik has instead been able to deliver fastener samples to customers within 1 week of inquiry, producing on average 100 pieces in 10 hours (excluding subsequent sintering). And, as the process doesn’t require the production of tooling, this cost was eradicated.

Crucially, Innovent+ 3D printed sample fasteners also matched the mechanical and surface finish properties of the end-use MIM parts as they were made using the same high density 316L alloy. Not only did this deliver a like for like comparison to the customer, it meant that MiMtechnik could use its own sintering systems to post process the parts.

As a result of ExOne’s additive manufacturing expertise in the delivery of these samples, MiMtechnik was able to close an annual order for 600,000 fasteners, which is to be increased to 1.2 million in subsequent years.

With regard to future 3D printing applications at MiMtechnik, Dr. Andreas Baumann, Technical Leader at MiMtechnik, replied, “Definitely yes. Before starting a MIM project we offer our customers to test MIM like prototypes made by this innovative shaping technology.”

“Customers can benefit from the shortest lead time without tooling costs by having similar material properties in sintered components.”

To learn more about the potential of ExOne’s 3D printers, check out the company’s other case studies here.

3D printed fasteners (316L) Photo via ExOne
3D printed fasteners (316L) Photo via ExOne

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Featured image shows a sample of 3D printed fasteners (316L) Photo via ExOne