Plastic AM mass production of conference gifts
3T worked with Bridge to produce 2,500 gifts to be given to delegates attending the Fascinating Times: 25 Years of Transition in Central Europe Conference held in May 2014 in Warsaw. Demonstrating the true production capability of plastic Additive Manufacturing (AM) together with their post-processing capabilities, 3T built and hand finished the entire batch of 2,500 identical units in just 19 days, taking a total of 540 hours to build the parts on their plastic AM machines.
2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the beginning of economic and political transition in Central and Eastern Europe, and the concept behind the gift’s design was one of showing the amazing transition path followed by 10 Central European countries from the beginning of dismantling socialism in 1989 in Poland up to the present day.
Designed by Bridge Design & Technology Research Bureau in Warsaw, the aim was to create a unique functional object that would simultaneously carry a layer of meaning beyond its functionality, incorporating a flat surface so that recipients can keep the gift on their desks.
The complex Möbius-based design incorporated intricate details and text on every side of the strip, the small raised features made possible through the use of plastic AM technology. It also needed to be weighted on one side to ensure that it sat on a desk correctly, and the flexibility of AM allowed the designers to incorporate a small internal chamber into which a weight was inserted. A small double-curved cap was also produced using the AM process to cover the weight chamber.
Bridge had envisaged using AM technology from a very early concept stage is it gave them freedom in creating complex and intricate forms that cannot be produced using any other method, whilst simultaneously ensuring high precision of manufacturing and remaining reasonably cost-efficient.
Injection molding was briefly considered but was quickly dismissed as there was no space for compromise on some of the design features and was financially non-viable for the size of production run required.
The designers learnt that when using Additive Manufacturing technology, every detail matters, and the type of plastic and the orientation of the print within the machine can have significant effects on the final outcome.
The entire production run of 2,500 parts took 540 hours to build and 3T’s team of skilled model makers then had to hand finish each one with a coating of black spray paint. From receipt of 3D CAD data, to the finished parts being shipped, the entire production job took just 19 days.
With the UK’s largest capacity for metal and plastic AM production, 3T can produce anything from a one-off prototype part to large production runs, and pretty much anything in between. The process enables repeatability and accuracy as each part is created directly from the CAD data, so there’s no risk of error when building any of the intricate design features.
The gifts received very positive feedback from the international audience at the conference, many of whom view AM (or 3D printing) as an innovative and revolutionary technology, so they welcomed the opportunity to take a 3D printed object back to their office with them.
The organizers of the conference say “We were delighted with the outcome of using AM technology and already have a couple of future projects in mind. AM gives enormous possibilities in creating complex structures and also in making them personal, with the ability to make slight alterations without affecting the price so each person can get a different product tailored to their needs. It is mass customization instead of mass production.”
Bridge Design & Technology Research Bureau