The 3d printing industry has evolved fast in the last few years constantly improving quality, size and speed. Although the main focus was on the consumer products, the industrial aspects and benefits of 3d printing are also starting to be credited.
Tech Sleeves – a Dutch manufacturer in the flexographic industry started to use 3d printed parts – sleeves – in order to improve their workflow and reduce costs thus becoming a pioneer in using 3d printing for industrial purposes. “Flexography (often abbreviated to flexo) is a form of printing process which utilizes a flexible relief plate. It is essentially a modern version of letterpress which can be used for printing on almost any type of substrate, including plastic, metallic films, cellophane, and paper.” (www.wikipedia.com)
The flexographic printing is a complex process that involves a few components that work together like an ink pan, fountain and anilox rolls, a plate cylinder and also a plate sleeve. The first step is creating a printing plate that contains all the information and details – like a package design and texts. These plates are printed on a flexible material that is mounted around a sleeve. The sleeve is then mounted on a mandrel and it becomes fully operational. In order to print larger surfaces, the sleeves have to be bigger in diameter so that the design fits. For this Tech Sleeves uses 3d printed sleeves that can easily be adapted to the customer size needs.
The first 3d printed sleeve was supplied to a client in early 2015 and since then a lot followed. Because the industry has customer-specific way of working with each sleeve being tailor made after customer specifications, 3d printing represents the best solution for Tech Sleeves. Some of the benefits that Tech Sleeves managed to achieve with 3d printing include a high weight reduction, optimization of production times, increased design flexibility and high waste reduction.
In order for Tech Sleeves to be able to 3d print their products they needed a solution – a really big 3d printer that could print large volumes, as high as 2.2 meters. Leapfrog 3d printer accepted the challenge, designed and built the XceL industrial 3d printer that was later released on the market.
With a customized built volume – each client can choose the size of the printer that best suits its needs – and top technical features, the XceL is a versatile and performant machine that will dominate the industrial production sector.