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Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing provides for quickly produced, low-quantity molded parts without the expense of tooling.

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3D printing – sometimes called additive manufacturing - has come a long way. While early printers had significant limitations, today, parts can be designed that produces parts impossible to achieve with traditional molding or machining. Improved filaments made from a wide range of plastics and materials allow for choosing important properties such as strength, softness, aesthetic features and other attributes. And lead time can be as short as days instead of weeks or months using older, more traditional methods.

Viadon has produced a number of 3D printed parts from TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) which offers some flexibility and therefore parts that can mimic rubber molded parts. These have proven helpful to customers unsure of design features and testing fit, handle locations / length, etc.

How does it work? 3D printing now has seven different means to produce parts, though the most popular for fast and inexpensive parts is the Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) method. In this type, an extruder melts plastic into a liquid, and deposits the material onto an appropriate surface where the melted material then cools.

As it does so, either the bed and/or the extruder moves per the instructions provided by the "slicing" software input to the machine. It will "draw" the bottom of the part in X and Y axes, and as each layer is completed, it moves up in the Z axis as the part design is printed layer by layer. While there are limitations to this, there are also advantages that are unavailable in more conventional means of solid part production.

As mentioned in our Molded Parts Engineering section, we can design parts to your needs. We then partner with vendors that have extensive 3D printing experience so you get the best possible parts at a reasonable cost.

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