Additive manufacturing at scale for plastic parts is now a reality, with the productivity, durability, repeatability, and lower total cost of operation manufacturers require. At the heart of the new plastics digital factory is the 3D Systems Figure 4™ Production printer, the industry’s first scalable, fully integrated additive manufacturing system for plastics leveraging the Digital Molding approach.
Figure 4 Production provides fast additive manufacturing in discrete modules. It can be deployed within automated assembly lines or integrated with secondary processes such as the washing, drying, and curing of end-use parts. Figure 4 technology is offered three ways: as a single standalone unit, an expandable modular solution, and the fully-customizable production line model.
Digital Molding reduces development costs and increases productivity by eliminating expensive and time-consuming tooling. In essence, CAD data is the tooling. The Digital Molding workflow simplifies production for low volume plastic parts production. Minimum Order Quantities (MOQs) can be a thing of the past; if you have a print-ready CAD file you can produce the part at an MOQ of 1.
Internal testing has proved that Figure 4, in combination with the accompanying 3D Sprint® software, can deliver a six sigma repeatability score of Cpk >2.0. Tests were conducted on eight Figure 4 Standalone machines, where each system can be calibrated through a series of preset test models to deliver the repeatability necessary for the Digital Factory for plastics.
Laboratory testing has confirmed Figure 4 technology leads the additive market for time-to-part production throughput. With up to 100mm per hour print speeds and rapid post-processing, Figure 4 parts have the fastest time-to-part-in-hand of any additive technology. In an 11-day period, eight Figure 4 printers can produce 10,000 units of a textured automotive vent. In those same 11 days, the injection molding process would still be in the mold design stage. Such a CAD-to-production rate makes digital molding ideal for Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) or bridge manufacturing. Get to market faster, then convert to injection molding as demand requires higher volume over the long term.