3D Printing CNC Lathe Part Catchers with Hugard and Markforged

Mark Two

On the production line, process automation is essential to control manufacturing output and guarantee a standard of efficiency. Hugard Inc. manufactures precision turned parts using CNC lathes, and a challenge they have always faced is how to collect parts as they’re parted off the lathe.

Ordinarily, an arm and grip would grab the turned parts or bundle them into a collection container, but because the parts are extremely complex and subject to a constant stream of corrosive-cutting fluid, they can’t be handled by plastic grips and they’re unsuitable for CNC milling. What Hugard Inc. have, then, are complex parts made by a CNC lathe that can’t be picked up by CNC fabricated grips. Talk about a double whammy.

Solving the challenge

Hugard Inc. solved the challenge with 3D printing. They used the Markforged Mark Two to fabricate a custom claw. The custom claw is made from Onyx and Carbon Fiber. It has a higher tensile strength than 6061 aluminium, excellent hardness, and supreme abrasion resistance. They use the custom claw as a parts collector; it catches turned parts as they’re parted off the CNC lathe. The process is completely automated and 100% efficient.

It’s important to point out that a claw fabricated from ABS wouldn’t function in the same way because it would have neither the strength or chemical resistance to withstand a cycle.

Using Markforged technology, Hugard Inc. prints claw grippers 16x cheaper and 25x faster than they can by CNC machining them. The alternative to 3D printing the grippers is CNC machining them from aluminium. This is a much more time-consuming task and the average cost per part is $400. With 3D printing, that cost is reduced to $25.06 per part. A 94% saving. The manufacturing time is slashed from 114 hours to 6-hours.

The CNC Part Catcher

It might look inconspicious, but this part is stronger than 6061 aluminium!

CNC part catcher

Continuous Carbon Fiber reinforcement material allows the catchment system to securely hold the part as it’s being parted off the lathe. The gripper is stronger than 6061 aluminium and can withstand hundreds of cycles. The unique properties of Onyx and Carbon Fiber mean the grippers can withstand cutting fluid, be it oil or water based. ABS and other thermoplastics would dissolve or degrade exposed to the same liquids and gels.

Crucially, the grippers would be nearly impossible to machine to the same standards. The thin walls and intricate features of the 3D printed grippers would take 144 hours to recreate with CNC machining.

With incredible performance and fabrication cost and time savings, Hugard Inc. have found a truly permanent solution to the challenge of collecting parts as they’re parted off the CNC lathe. If you enjoyed this case study, you can find more like it at our engineering and manufacturing page.

3D Printer: Mark Two (Enterprise).

Material used: Onyx, Carbon Fiber. The Markforged Mark Two can also 3D print Fibreglass and Kevlar.

This information was first published on the Markforged website.