Sinks and other bathroom appliances are most commonly made from vitreous porcelain or enamelled cast iron. Natural stone and ceramic are also popular in households, while in industrial environments, stainless steel is the port of call. What all these materials have in common is they are sturdy, strong, and built to last for a very long time.
But, those materials are not always suitable for prototyping those same products. The manufacturing methods for low-series production are high and the techniques are specialised, meaning you need to have specific equipment and skills to do it.
For most designers, this means outsourcing prototyping, which is an extremely expensive endeavour, not to mention a time-consuming one. Prototype cycle times are often set weeks apart which isn’t ideal if the company wants to push on and iterate their designs and ultimately move ahead with production.
These challenges led Saneux, a leading company in the bathroom manufacture industry, to seek out alternative manufacturing methods for prototyping their appliances and bathroom fittings. Saneux is a maker of fine bathroom fittings with unique, interesting designs, so they needed a way to not only make prototypes quickly but with complete design freedom too. This led them to additive manufacturing as a solution.
A 3D Printing Revolution
3D printing turned out to be a perfect fit for Saneux because it offers design freedom and the ability to finetune the manufacturing process. By using different materials and adjusting printer settings, they can create interesting prototypes that do not need post-processing.
Their 3D printer of choice is the Builder Extreme 1000 (since superseded by the Builder Extreme 1000 PRO) which has a huge 700 x 700 x 820 mm (XYZ) build volume. It’s a large-format 3D printer engineered to deliver high-quality output, quickly, on a larger scale, with support for a wide range of materials including biodegradable PLA and PET.
Thanks to that huge build volume, Saneux is able to manufacture 1:1 scale bathroom appliance prototypes without loss of quality or detail across iterations.
In the video below, you can see a time-lapse of a bathroom basin being 3D printed:
The basin was 3D printed in white PRO1 material (PRO1 is PLA-based but tougher than PLA, designed for use in tools and fixtures). The model was printed using a 0.4 mm nozzle, 0.2 mm layer height and 10% infill. The result is a prototype that could easily function like the real thing in someone’s bathroom because it’s strong with a desirable finish.
The Builder Extreme 1000 PRO can also print PLA, PVA support material, PET, flexible filament and special ColorFabb filaments like woodFill and bronzeFill. As demonstrated by Saneux, it is also compatible with a number of PLA-based materials like PRO1.
Jorge Hernandez, a product designer at Saneux UK says: “Before purchasing the Builder Extreme, Saneux used external suppliers to develop prototypes. This was a lengthy, expensive process in which sometimes design elements were not communicated correctly and even lost. 3D printing allows us to review all aspects of the design and change details prior to developing a sample from the supplier. In some cases, we send the 3D print to the supplier to make sure they fully understand the geometry. 3D printing large items in-house not only gives us more design freedom but is also much cheaper, especially when the prototypes require tooling moulds”.
With the newfound capability to manufacture prototypes in-house in just a few days, Saneux is enjoying a more flexible product design process than ever before.
3D printer: Builder Extreme 1000 PRO
Material: PRO1 – PLA (White)
Print specifications: Printed using a 0.4 mm nozzle, with a 0.2 mm layer height and 10% infill
If you enjoyed this case study, you can find more like it at our manufacturing and engineering page. All images are credit to Builder 3D (unless specified otherwise).