CAD House is thrilled to announce that we have launched the very first commercial production 3D printing facility in South Africa.
South Africa has embraced 3D printing with great enthusiasm over the past 5 years with the availability of more affordable FDM based 3D Printers, but never before has any organisation taken the leap into full scale production 3D Printing.
Limiting 3D printing technologies
The entry level FDM based 3D printers are great, and we know that, as we are responsible for at least 3500 of these little marvels in Southern Africa alone. But FDM has it's limitations. Although part quality has improved, a 3D printed FDM part will never be mistaken for a part made by any other process. This is because the detail level of FDM is limited, accuracy and small features are not always what is required and evident stair stepping is almost always noticeable. Although the FDM process is often considered to produce the strongest material properties, this is not true for all directions of the part, especially in the Z axis as the layering creates weak spots in the part. The plastic extrusion process is also one of the slowest 3D printing technologies around, making this system not very well suited to volume production unless you are operating a farm of 3D Printers.
Other technologies are also available yielding superior part finishes, accuracy and material properties. These processes are ideal for once off parts, prototypes or mockups - but the materials used can be somewhat costly making volume production unaffordable. Machines based on MJM (Multi Jet Modelling), PolyJet (Objet), FDM (Stratasys), Powder Infiltration (CJP) and UV curable resins are often used for internal prototyping, patterns and ounce off parts by large companies or service providers. Most of these processes also require support structure to be built which can often exceed the cost of the final product, and adds to the post processing time and labour required to finish the part and ultimately adds to the cost and lead times.
The advantages of the SLS process
The SLS, or Selective Laser Sintering process uses a high powered CO2 laser to sinter or melt powdered materials in order to solidify layers. While most SLS 3D printers sinter layers at 100 micron (0.1mm) which is superior to FDM layer resolution, the ProX 500plus production system has a layer height range of between 10micron (0.01mm) and 80micron (0.08mm) creating superior part finishes with virtually invisible layer lines on parts. The plastic powders are real plastics, most commonly Nylon with a range of additives including glass filled, composite filled and aluminium filled powders. The powders are exponentially cheaper than the specialised materials used by other technologies, and un sintered powder is used to support the part, so there is absolutely no waste material in the process.
All of this attributes to parts that are stronger than any other technology, superior finish with almost injection moulded finish and at a price as much as 10X less than any other technology. Combined with speed able to produce approximately 120 tennis ball size objects in less than 24 hours this is the ideal technology for low volume production and mass customisation.
Tooling free production
The advantages are clear. Eliminate tooling for low volume production runs. A tool can be extremely costly to produce, and can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months to manufacture. 3D Production can start immediately upon design completion. And if your parts change anytime during the production cycle, it is as simple as updating your CAD drawings and the next batch will reflect the changes. No need to send tooling away for costly modifications which can again take weeks to complete.
Complexity is free!
When using 3D printing technologies, manufacturing complexity is free. The rule in traditional manufacturing is that the more complicated an object’s shape is, the higher the manufacturing costs are. On a 3D printer, the cost for a complex design are about the same as for a simple one. Fabricating a complicated shape does not require more time or cost than let’s say printing a simple shape, like a cube.
Unparalleled Design Freedom
To accommodate the new production facilities, CAD House are moving to new premises in Midrand. The new plant is large enough for further expansion and we do intend to build on this with additional machines capable of running multiple materials including a variety of plastics and metals. The first ProX 500Plus is already installed at the new factory. Our current range of professional 3D printing equipment will also be moved here and includes the following.
Other service offerings in 3D CAD product design, 3D Scanning services for reverse engineering and inspection. Laser Cutting and engraving.