3D Printing Welding Fixtures with Markforged and SDHQ

3d printing welding fixtures

SDHQ specialise in truck and 4×4 accessories, lift kits, performance off-road suspension, parts, servicing and everything in-between. They operate an enormous 18,000 sq ft facility in Arizona packed to the rafters with kit. They make hundreds of parts themselves, traditionally by hand using machine welding.

At $800 per part, the cost to manufacture parts using traditional methods was very high. Not to mention time-consuming. Like any smart business would, SDHQ Off Road sought out a better way to make stuff which led them to 3D printing.

3D Printing Welding Fixtures

The team invested in a Markforged Mark Two 3D printer a year ago and haven’t looked back. The machined welding fixtures they used to manufacture by hand over several weeks are now 3D printed in hours. This has resulted in a 93 per cent boost in manufacturing speed and a 99 per cent reduction in cost.

To give you a typical use scenario, SDHQ Shop Foreman Kevin Ketchner used to weld steel plates into custom fixtures. Despite his experience, the handcrafted element of every job introduced some diminished quality, be it corrosion or bending. No two parts were every really the same, which meant he couldn’t reliably reproduce results for every customer. 3D printing has changed that by introducing repeatability to the manufacturing process.

In his own words, “the process of making the printed fixtures was a lot faster and easier.” It also introduced a unique aesthetic to parts, with Onyx being the printable material of choice. Part nylon and part chopped carbon fibre, Onyx is exceptionally tough and robust. It’s also unique in appearance, with a satin, deep black finish. Parts look professional with no post-processing, and they’re ready to go fresh from the print bed. SDHQ use Onyx to manufacture steel fixture replacement parts, but the material is suitable for hundreds of other end-use applications.

The biggest test of parts was the durability test. Because they were a replacement for steel fixtures, they had to offer comparable strength. Onyx offers exceptional corrosion resistance, heat tolerance, and strength, so on paper it’s the perfect material. It proved to be in practice too. In all tests, parts remained steadfast.

3D printing has also eliminated human error from the manufacturing process and improved the performance of parts. The team can now design new iterations and prototypes in CAD, send them to print, and have a fresh part to test out the next day – a perk that’s unique to additive manufacturing. By contrast, machine welding is laborious and costly.

The Mark Two has proved to be an immensely useful tool for SDHQ. More than that, it’s paid for itself. The cost to manufacture a part before was $800. With 3D printing, it’s just $10. That’s a 99% saving. For replacing costly machining processes, there’s no better 3D printer on the market than the Mark Two. Check out the full range of Markforged 3D printers here and more engineering case studies like this one here. Product design can be found here.

3D Printer: Mark Two (Enterprise).

Material used: OnyxFibreglass. The Markforged Mark Two can also 3D print Carbon Fibre and Kevlar.

This information was first published on the Markforged website.