By Phil Cannon, Publisher
3D Printed PartsTough, durable, field ready 3D printed parts… that’s a relatively new one for me. While I understand that 3D printing has come a long way, for both plastics and metals, I still thought it was more for prototyping and samples and gadgets than it was for actual “end user” production parts. Well, after meeting up with Terry Jones, head of engineering at MultiSensor Scientific of Somerville, MA and seeing their Markforged X-7 3D printer, I got
a quick education.
MultiSensor has developed a proprietary technology for detecting methane gas leaks with a portable, field ready, short wave, infrared (SWIR) camera/scanner. The equipment is mounted on a portable three-wheeled stand for ease of use in the field. With the exception of the electronics, some Kevlar tubing and assorted nuts and bolts, the whole thing is made of 3D printed parts – housings, brackets, handles, bases – you name it. The parts are made of the Onyx material available from Markforged and are extremely rigid, durable and come out of the machine finished, ready to assemble and use.
If you need a more robust part, there is an option that allows the user to insert layers of carbon fiber, Kevlar or whatever else you may need for a stiffener, making it integral to the part. As mentioned earlier, these parts are suitable for everyday use and abuse. According to Terry, “I have been involved with 3D printing pretty much since its inception in the early 80s, and it really is transformative technology. Yes, early on the parts were flimsy, brittle and fragile, but not any more. If I can think it, or draw it, I can pretty much make it. The tooling costs associated with what I make are zero. The tooling costs, if we were to have our equipment manufactured conventionally, would have been several hundred thousand dollars.”
While the company was in the design phase of this product, they looked at having an outside vendor print their parts for them. After getting several quotes and doing some quick math, it became apparent to Terry that the outright purchase of their own machine was the way to go.
As a part of Greentown Labs, the largest clean technology incubator in the United States, MultSensor had access to, and were familiar with a Markforged 3D printer in the shared lab/ manufacturing space and decided they wanted one of their own. They contacted Brooks Associates, the local representative for Markforged and made a deal this past April.
According to Terry, with the exception of regular maintenance, the machine has been going non-stop since it was set up. “The machine paid for itself on the first round of printing parts for the prototype machine. We had to go through several changes and updates on part design, but we controlled it throughout the process and it greatly reduced our turnaround times and overall time to market. We had a failure of a part due to customer error in Calgary, Canada. Rather than having them ship the whole unit back for repair I asked them to take a picture of the failed part and send it to me. I then isolated the failed section from the whole part, printed just the failed section that afternoon and overnighted the new part with instructions on how to make the repair. They were up and running the next day.”
The company is currently finishing up the final testing stage of this exciting new technology and they are gearing up for the first production run.
All of this technology is pretty amazing and most would think you have to pay a lot for it. 3D printing machines are much more affordable than one would think, for both plastics and metals.
To learn more about 3D printing technology from Markforged and how its unique and patented technologies can benefit your company please call your local representative, Brooks Associates of Norwell, MA at (781) 871- 3400 or visit them online at www.brooksmachinery.com. To learn more about MultiSensor Scientific and their exciting new technologies, please visit them online at www.multisensorscientific.com. Reprinted from Manufacturers’ Mart, December 2018