Some say 3D printing will revolutionise industrial manufacturing and are keen to jump on board while others are more hesitant and prefer to bide their time. The management of Eppendorf Instrumente GmbH are fans of 3D printing. Rainer Treptow, Head of Instrumentation and Systems, noted the need for a 3D printer in 2015. The choice was left to Manuel Mayer, Project Manager at Eppendorf Instrumente GmbH. After gathering information about functions, prices and various procedures such as 3D printing or selective laser melting, Mayer opted for the rapid prototyping procedure) FDM (fused deposition modelling) in which 3D items are built from layers of ABS (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene plastics). “It is particularly well suited for making objects subjected to a great deal of stress,” Mayer noted.
Over 3,800 hours of faultless printing
The printer arrived in May 2016 and has been printed smoothly for over 3,800 hours ever since. The high-tech gadget is now familiar to everyone in the company. People ask each other to print something off for someone, said Mayer, 44. “Originally, we had intended printing mainly casing parts or internal, functional parts. Now we are going beyond that and printing e.g. grippers for robots based on contours.” The purchase has clearly stood the test, he noted. “Valuable information can be gleaned from printed models and we present and test these prototypes at our customers’ companies. That allows us to plan the next steps together and to produce close to the market.”
Printing time to be slashed
Being limited to ABS is the only drawback, said Mayer. “However, printers that can print different materials are much costlier and can cost EUR 100,000 and more.” Eppendorf Instrumente GmbH invested EUR 30,000. “We went slightly over budget but received more powerful software with the gadget. A good printer costs between EUR 5,000 and EUR 15,000,” according to Mayer. The company plans to use small series of components made through additive manufacturing whenever and wherever economically feasible. “At present, plenty of changes are occurring in developing the printers. The printing time is likely to be slashed in future.”