Lead times and costs reduced by 50% since implementing MakerBot 3D printers
October 8, 2019 – MakerBot, a global leader in 3D printing, today revealed that leading German automotive solutions provider, LÄPPLE Group, is leveraging MakerBot 3D printers to enhance its production processes in its press shops and assembly lines. Using MakerBot METHOD and Replicator Z18 3D Printers, the company reduced lead times and costs by up to 50% compared to its traditional manufacturing methods for specific production appliances. The group has also managed to eradicate the need for off-tool sheet metal parts in fixture manufacturing using its in-house 3D printers.
LÄPPLE invested in MakerBot 3D printers having seen considerable potential for additive manufacturing across all its subsidiaries, most notably in the production of large parts, such as pressings, at the original LÄPPLE AUTOMOTIVE site in Heilbronn, Germany. MakerBot 3D printers serve a range of applications, including illustrative concept models, prototyping and serial production equipment.
Additive manufacturing made possible
The introduction of in-house 3D printing enables LÄPPLE to resolve recurring issues with fixtures and tooling, and reliably print components which are difficult or impossible to produce with conventional methods.
Previously, form supporting elements for a part’s receptacles used in the press shops were produced by molding off-tool sheet metal parts, which incorporated the use of hazardous resins. With MakerBot, the need for off-tool parts has been eliminated. Designers can now drop a native CAD file with precise print geometries straight onto a virtual build plate, automatically adjusting the print orientation. The result is a rapidly accelerated workflow and safer production, with no need for hazardous molding materials.
Furthermore, the addition of a MakerBot METHOD 3D Printer to the plant’s facilities enables the tool-less manufacture of components that can withstand moderate mechanical and thermal loads, or for which the CAD data is quick to generate or readily available.
3D printed components reduce lead-times and costs by 50%
The team at LÄPPLE is also leveraging MakerBot 3D printing to produce components on-demand. This is exemplified by magazines holding the spare electrode caps for spot-welding robots. Using 3D printing, manufacturing tools were developed to successfully connect complex plastic geometries with solid steel components. For this application, time and costs were cut by more than 50%.
Overall, introducing MakerBot 3D printing equipment has allowed engineers to create production-grade parts at extremely low cost, enabling the team to optimize designs, increase efficiency, and enjoy a seamless workflow.
Martin Heckmann, development engineer at LÄPPLE, comments “The MakerBot Replicator Z18 is outstanding for entering the field of additive manufacturing. Should a print not turn out as desired on the first attempt, we just try again. The extremely low print-costs per unit in the MakerBot allow us to adjust the parameters until we get a perfect result.”
Training Future Engineers
LÄPPLE’s well-renowned vocational program has been established for over 80 years. One of the key areas of the program aims to remain at the forefront of the additive manufacturing industry’s latest developments and trends to ensure LÄPPLE remains competitive. To help educate and train its engineers, the company’s tutors are using the MakerBot Replicator Z18 to complement their technical product design course.
Integrating 3D printing into LÄPPLE’s traditional vocational course, tutors are training young technicians on the production of complex-shaped parts using additive manufacturing. By using MakerBot technology, students can quickly and easily import CAD files, auto-arrange and print on one or multiple printers, offering instant conversion and realization from design to prototype. This provides students with invaluable experience for real-life applications that require industrial CAD and Additive Manufacturing processes.
LÄPPLE engineers continue to uncover the potential of additive manufacturing in both modelling, tooling and production equipment applications.
“The vast range of application possibilities can only be discovered by actively utilizing this technology in a practical manner. And this learning process, so far, is not completed and we are happy to continue exploring with MakerBot,” summarizes Heckmann.
“LÄPPLE AUTOMOTIVE has embraced the possibilities that in-house 3D printing can offer, especially when engineers design and think with additive in mind. With MakerBot’s METHOD and Z18, manufacturers such as LÄPPLE can really embrace additive manufacturing for a wide range of applications – whether for tools on the assembly lines or end-use parts,” concludes Nadav Goshen, CEO, MakerBot.