Competitive low-volume production with FFF

Operating out of Denver, Colorado, Peak Additive produces rapid-prototyping and low volume production runs of plastic parts via 3D printing. Peak Additive were approached by a customer with a design for a cap that turns and locks into place over a USB insert, used to protect a USB flash drive on an outdoor electrical controller. Previously, the customer sourced the part from a supplier that used injection molding however production had been discontinued.

While injection molding is unrivaled at large volumes, 3D printing can be a competitive solution for low to mid sized production runs, as there are no initial costs relating to tooling. Because the customer only required 200 parts per year, 3D printing was identified as a cost effective solution.

The customer’s primary focus was to ensure the cap fitted correctly. Industrial FFF printers produce parts in an enclosed and controlled environment, resulting in highly accurate parts with high repeatability. Using the 3D Printer , Peak Additive was able to produce the cap to a dimensional tolerance of ~0.005” (0.127 mm) for all critical dimensions. The build size of the industrial FFF printer also allowed for a large number of the caps to be printed in a single run, lowering the cost even further.

One of the main advantages of FFF is the ability to produce functional parts from engineering plastics. Initially, the customer requested the componentbe manufactured from Nylon 12. Based on the annual usage, cost and overall performance of the part, Peak Additive made the suggestion to switch material to acrylonitrile styrene acrylate (ASA). ASA has one of the best finishes on the market for FFF thermoplastics, a high accuracy, low shrink rate and is UV stable, making it ideal for outdoor applications.

The end result was a part that met all the customers specifications at a lower price point than the same part printed with Nylon 12.

3D printing