Materials

Tooling manufacturer Brown & Holmes expands material options with 3D printing

Tamworth-based tooling manufacturer Brown & Holmes has added two Stratasys 3D printers to its operations, sourced from UK-based reseller SYS Systems.

The 3D printers were acquired to expand the material choices Brown & Holmes offers to its various customers, and to replace parts used in its production solutions and fixtures. The company has also used the 3D printers to tailor and experiment with design processes. 

Mick Waller, Brown & Holmes Engineering Manager, said “Our customer base is looking at us now for newer and different materials beyond the conventional. There are over 17 materials we can print between the two Stratasys machines, which has meant that we can adopt the newer carbon fibre-type material to replace metal parts in our production solutions.”

“Anything our design team can model we can print, so it’s given us opportunities to be more experimental with designs and parts that we can manufacture.”

Partnership between SYS and Brown & Holmes

Founded in 1939, Brown & Holmes offers workholding, automation, and machining services to various industries such as automotive, aerospace and construction.

SYS Systems, platinum partner of Stratasys, came into contact with Brown & Holmes in 2018 at the TCT Show. Soon after SYS Systems supplied Brown & Holmes with a Stratasys F170 and Fortus 450mc.

SYS Systems is part of the Carfulan Group, a reseller and service provider comprising four other companies alongside SYS. As well as Brown & Holmes, the reseller has also previously supplied Rutland Plastics with a Stratasys Fortus 380mc Carbon Fiber Edition, and collaborated with Moog Aircraft Group, to qualify FDM 3D pritned aerospace-grade parts.

Rob Thompson, SYS Systems Sales Manager, explains: “We work closely with our customers on production systems that perfectly match their needs, and then to ensure that they are getting the very best out of whichever solution we’ve identified together.”

“Once a business discovers the benefits that 3D printing can deliver, they rarely look back. With the Fortus 450mc, for example, it is possible to produce bespoke tools and manufacturing aids much quicker than with traditional machining, using materials that are far lighter than metal but give nothing up in terms of strength and durability.”

The Stratasys F170 and Fortus 450mc installed on the shop floor at Brown & Holmes. Photo via SYS Systems.
The Stratasys F170 and Fortus 450mc installed on the shop floor at Brown & Holmes. Photo via SYS Systems.

3D printing carbon fiber with Stratasys

The F170, part of the Stratasys F123 series, is an FDM/FFF 3D printer. Further,  compatible with GrabCAD Print software, which can slice a model directly from CAD, the F123 is designed for easy integration within existing workspaces. F123 3D printers offer operators a choice of PLA or engineering thermoplastics with greater durability.

The larger Fortus 450mc, also acquired by Brown & Holmes, is capable of processing engineering-grade thermoplastics such as Nylon 12 Carbon Fiber, ideal for producing jigs, fixtures, factory tooling and other end-use parts.

Brown & Holmes has specifically used the 3D printers to replace metal parts in its jigs and fixtures, adopting 3D printed carbon fiber instead. Furthermore, the company has decided to offer a 3D printing service as a separate entity to its core business with the addition of the two Stratasys 3D printers.  

“We bought the 3D-printing machines for our own use for manufacturing parts to put on our fixtures and solutions, but we’re quickly realising that we can offer the printing service as a separate entity to our core business,” added Waller. “We’re hoping these machines become too busy and we grow our capacity to offer 3D-printed parts out to the market to new and existing customers.”

Fixtures produced on the Stratasys 3D printers. Photo via SYS Systems.
Fixtures produced on the Stratasys 3D printers. Photo via SYS Systems.

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Featured image shows the Stratasys F170 and Fortus 450mc installed on the shop floor at Brown & Holmes. Photo via SYS Systems.

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