The increased use of 3D printing, from hobbyists to professionals, has revolutionized the way ideas and products are brought to life. Multiple websites (GrabCAD, Thingiverse, etc.) provide over a million free downloadable files that can be printed on a variety of 3D printers. Everything from miniature drone blades to sci-fi figures to replacement parts for your vacuum cleaner are readily available. The possibilities for whatever application you have are almost unlimited. Almost.
The key to giving your 3D designs unlimited potential for customization is CAD modeling software. While there are many accessible 3D printing files created by others, the most satisfying way to bring your ideas to reality are files created by you! Files for 3D printing can be created from scratch or existing files can by modified to suit your application. Without the ability to create unique parts, a 3D printer can quickly become a novelty. As soon as the excitement of first initial prints wear off, the use and return on investment reduces as well.
Read more to see how one company unlocks the true potential of CAD with 3D Printing.
Engineering Services Customer Case Study
A company that customizes enclosure trailers recently proved to be an excellent example of this limitation and how to solve it. The company wanted to use an off-the-shelf LED lighting product to illuminate the interior of a racing trailer. They needed to mount the LED lights in a clean manner and in specific locations to satisfy the customer’s needs. The company also wanted to locate the lighting switches discreetly. Since these parts would not be mass-produced the cost of a plastic injection mold could not be justified. They decided a series of 3D printed components would be the best method to meet their needs within the given delivery timeline.
While the company had access to a 3D printer, they did not have access to CAD modeling software. Despite extensively searching online trying to fulfill the requirements for these lighting components, nothing could be found to suit their needs.
The company came across EAC and decided to utilize the Engineering Services Group to save the day. A member of the Engineering Services Team created several CAD models using PTC Creo to design the customized lighting components. Within two hours, the stylized CAD models were complete and ready for printing. Three days later the 3D prints were finished and installed in the trailer.
Figures 1 illustrates the CAD with 3D printing files and Figure 2 illustrates the finished parts installed in the trailer. The parts were 3D printed using the Form 2 by FormLabs. The Form 2 is a high-quality stereolithography (SLA) 3D printer. In this case, the parts were printed using a clear resin (GPCL02) and then painted black. The parts were quickly produced to provide the custom enclosed trailer with a lighting solution that exceeded the customers expectations.
This project demonstrates a practical application of 3D printing when paired with CAD modeling software. With PTC Creo and the Form 2, the Engineering Services team was able to quickly create finished and functional parts that can provide unique and differentiating products without the capital investment sometimes required by plastic injection molding and other manufacturing processes.
It’s important to remember that the quality of your print depends on the quality of your design. If the CAD model is poorly designed, your 3D printed product may have flaws. The cleaner your design, the cleaner your print. Luckily for you, we can help! Find out why you should design your products using PTC Creo here. If you think you already have a great CAD modeling software and want to explore the Form 2 instead, go here.