Big Money, Time Savings When Printing End-of-Arm ToolsFebruary 25, 2019
With manufacturers under more pressure than ever to deliver new products faster while reducing cost, additive manufacturing (AM) offers a remedy. AM technology can pay off not only when applied to parts and products, but tooling as well. Durable tooling often represents a significant cost, and recent advances in 3D printing can reduce costs drastically while accelerating time-to-market. Case in point: Markforged printers creating metallic and composite gripper jaws as robotic end-of-arm tools for Dixon Valve & Coupling.
Manufacturing for more than a century, Dixon, headquartered in Chestertown, MD, needed jaws strong enough to withstand the physical and chemical rigors of a manufacturing environment. It also needed a cost-effective solution to cut the amount of time engineers spent making tools. Markforged has released details on the composite-jaws efforts.
Mounting on a robot that transfers fittings between machining centers, the jaws had to survive corrosive fluids while subjected to repeated clamping. Using a Markforged Mark Two printer and Onyx, the sole 3D-printed material able to survive Dixon’s chemical-resistance-qualification test, Dixon now can retool a robotic arm within 24 hr. By printing, instead of machining, these jaws, Dixon cut fabrication time from 144 to 9 hr., a time savings of 93 percent. And, fabrication cost decreased by 97 percent, from $290 to $9, according to Markforged officials. In operation, Dixon officials report that both the composite and metallic jaws are robust enough to grip and move stainless-steel pipe couplings.
Markforged officials report that manufacturers often print 10-50 percent of durable tooling used in their processes, which, the officials note, represents significant value when factoring in the 80-percent average cost savings of a 3D-printed part versus a machined part, with printed parts delivered 85 percent more quickly.