By Jeff Robbins, Director, Figure 4 Product Management 

Tool-less digital molding is a new manufacturing capability powered by 3D Systems’ Figure 4™ technology that gives users the ability to go straight from CAD to manufacturing without tooling. The applications and implications for this technology are vast, making digital molding a highly complementary process to traditional production. Whereas traditional production requires laborious, time-consuming, and expensive tooling, digital molding saves time and cost by delivering end-use parts directly with a CAD file and Figure 4 solution (comprised of a print engine, software and materials). Figure 4 puts users in the driver’s seat to determine what their needs are across a range of variables including part quantities, design versatility, and time-to-first-part.

Here are the top 6 ways 3D Systems has broken the historic barriers to 3D production to enable tool-less manufacturing:

1. Accuracy and repeatability in additive manufacturing for production

When considering a technology for production, the ability to repeatably achieve accurate parts is critical. Six Sigma repeatability (Cpk > 2) across all Figure 4 materials makes Figure 4 the most accurate 3D printing technology available.

2. High-speed printing and curing productivity

A production solution has to be fast to be viable. A significant takeaway from recently released data on Figure 4 Production showed print speeds of up to 100 mm/hr. In addition to fast production times, Figure 4 uses a light-based UV curing process that can be done in a matter of minutes. Together, this printing and curing process delivers the fastest additive manufacturing throughput and time-to-part.

3. Material flexibility and versatility

The production-grade materials available for Figure 4 include a range of industrial, elastomeric, casting and biocompatible dental materials as well as custom materials that can be specifically designed for Figure 4 Production customers in collaboration with 3D Systems’ Material Design Center.

4. Improved time-to-market and part mass-customization

Digital molding brings the digital design flexibility of additive manufacturing to end-use production and enables distinct outputs to be produced in the same production batch. This capability is available alongside the ability to produce long- and short-run batches.

5. Low Total Cost of Operation (TCO) and low per part costs

Producing parts immediately with tool-less digital molding is a unique competitive advantage that allows 3D Systems’ users to avoid or offset tooling costs by delivering parts without delay. Figure 4 offers a workaround for minimum order quantities and an alternative to holding inventory for legacy parts that cost money and take up space. Surprising though it may seem, the ability to accurately create complex end-use parts with industrial-grade materials virtually on the spot with Figure 4 can be up to 20% more affordable than traditional manufacturing.

6. Figure 4 can scale to meet your needs

Digital molding is a manufacturing methodology that can grow as your demand grows. The configurable units of Figure 4 scale from a standalone printer for rapid prototyping and low volume production to modular systems with expandable capacity to fully-automated, fully-integrated factory solutions.