Assembly In Action: 3D Printer Prototypes Complex, Multi-Material Parts
The machine can create prototypes made of flexible and rigid materials
Currently, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) produces eight vehicle lines. To ensure that these lines maintain their premium position in the marketplace, nearly 20 percent of JLR’s workforce is employed on product development.
These workers use a variety of tools to quickly create and approve designs. These tools include CNC model making, a fully equipped metalwork and tool shop, and in-house prototyping. JLR uses several rapid prototyping machines, including a Connex500 3D printing system made by Objet Geometries Ltd.
JLR chose the Connex500 because it features PolyMatrix technology, which allows fast development and testing of complex, multi-material parts directly from CAD data. By jetting two distinctive model materials in preset combinations in a matrix structure, the machine can create prototypes made of flexible and rigid materials, with different mechanical and physical properties, and various finishes.
The system can print models made of up to 14 different materials in a single print job. It prints ultrathin 16-micron layers and can create models up to 500 by 400 by 200 millimeters. The printer uses FullCure materials to create accurate, clean, smooth and highly detailed 3D parts.
In 2008, the Connex500 was initially used to produce a complete facia air vent assembly, as a working part, for a Range Rover Sport. Rigid materials were used for the housing and air-deflection blades. Rubber-like materials were used for the control knobs and air seal.
The assembly was produced in a single process. Once printed, the assembly was cleaned and tested immediately to make sure that all hinges on the blades worked and the control knob had the right look and feel.
Since then, the system has accumulated 5,000 hours of operation, used 600 kilograms of resin, and printed more 2,500 parts. Although this amount represents a small percentage of the 30,000 parts prototyped annually by JLR, the number produced on the Connex500 has been steadily increasing. Currently, the printer produces more than one third of JLR’s resin-based part prototypes.
The JLR styling department is the most frequent user of the system. More than half of everything produced on the 3D printer finds its way into the design studio to help finalize new design proposals.
A good example is the creation of an entire telescopic headlamp washing system that extends and cleans headlamps every fifth time the windscreen is washed. The Connex-printed components proved to be robust enough for rigorous testing, verifying their design before moving into the expensive tooling stage.
JLR also uses the printer for overmolding. For example, two materials are used, but not mixed, to create a cover with a rubber seal. Once the seal is cleaned, it is used directly for fit and function testing.
The company also uses the printer to develop door seals and protective gaiters made of its proprietary material TangoBlackPlus. This nonrigid material allows designers and manufacturers to create high-quality prototypes that closely resemble a broad range of rubber products.
For more information on 3D printers, call 877-489-9449 or visit www.objet.com.