Ask anyone in business, higher education or the medical community what their top objectives are and they’ll probably say it’s to achieve more, to solve more problems, faster than what’s possible now, while saving money in the process. Ask what’s holding them back and you’ll probably find a diverse variety of obstacles in their day-to-day work processes that hinder them in meeting those goals.
Having the right tools to do the job is one crucial element in solving problems and becoming more efficient and productive. Additive manufacturing, widely known as 3D printing, is one of those tools that has helped businesses, educators, health care providers and researchers improve how they design, manufacture and perform research.
While no tool is an all-in-one solution, 3D printing is a strong step in that direction, particularly in its most sophisticated forms. 3D printing makes it possible to manufacture things that aren’t feasible with traditional processes like machining or injection moldi
Factory production lines know the right jig or fixture speeds production, which increases productivity. But that’s just the beginning. Well-designed tools are more ergonomic, offering both increased worker safety and productivity, as well as cost savings. Traditional machining produces heavy, costly, multi-piece tools that become an even greater liability as repetitive motion injuries erode line productivity with worker disability. Redesign means even more protracted timelines for machined parts. While essential to efficiency, accuracy and safety, jigs and fixtures are often considered a necessary evil in the overall production process. Costly, protracted timelines for machined jigs and fixtures are the culprit here, especially for the often complex designs necessary to meet unique part needs. This, along with certain complex designs that simply cannot be manufactured using traditional methods are a reality on the production floor. But there is a better way. 3D printed jigs and fixture
The adage “never stop learning” is alive and well for both the students at Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) and its Additive Lab Consortium members. The school of 2,900 students, located in the heart of downtown Milwaukee has ties with 47 manufacturing companies, including Kohler, Snap-on Tools, Baxter Medical and Master Lock. The Consortium was born out of necessity 27 years ago when MSOE was faced with a 50 percent shortfall in the funds needed to get an additive lab up-and-running. The school approached industry and opened partnership talks around additive technology. Four founding partners came on board, each contributing one-eighth of the cost of the lab. In turn they were provided with non-competitive, shared access. Currently, consortium members pay yearly dues in return for lab hours and access to additive manufacturing expertise.