In early 2012 APC Technology purchased an UP Plus 3D Printer to use for prototyping. The printer uses a technique called Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) to construct plastic parts in ABS by printing the plastic layer by layer out of a heated nozzle similar to a hot melt glue gun. The 3 axis printer has a build platform that enables us to build parts 140mm in width, 140mm deep and 135mm high.
We experimented printing various parts such as a gear bearing from thingiverse.com with 7 moving internal gears that was printed as one part but could not be physically assembled if made by traditional manufacturing techniques.
When customers come to us with new designs we can model up the design and turn around a prototype the same day. For one customer we made a connector plate to test the spacing of connectors on a new design. For another product we designed a battery clip for the button cell battery that comes as part of a motherboard to provide ruggedised solution. We currently use the printer to produce production parts for this product.
We also undertook an R&D job to produce an acoustic locater prototype where weight was critical. With the use of the 3D Printer we were able to produce a tube with perforations that was a fraction of the weight of the initially proposed solution of using machined PVC pipe.
The 3D printer helps us foster an innovative work environment by encouraging the quick turn-around of prototypes and encouraging every employee to come up with ideas for printing on the printer. It enables us to service our customers more effectively and produce plastic parts at a fraction of the cost it would for injection moulded parts.
APC Technology is currently investigating buying a printer with double the build envelope which will build large flat parts that the current printer struggles with. This will enable APC Technology to further service its customer base by being able to prototype faceplates for PCs and print quality parts for production.
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