Prior to additive manufacturing, Dixon Valve, a US-based manufacturer of fittings for fluid transfer industries, relied on outsourcing and costly in-house machining processes to produce tools. But thanks to the Markforged Mark Two, they are now able to 3D print their own tools and jaws for industrial robotic arms, saving time and money in the process.
The average machining service would cost Dixon Valve $290.53 with a 72-hour turnaround time, while the average 3D printing cost for the same part comes in at just $9.06 with a 9-hour, 20-minute turnaround time. With such enormous cost and time savings, it makes no wonder that Dixon Valve have extended their use of 3D printing to re-tool robotic arms and manufacture new gripping tools, which would ordinarily take several days to manufacture.
“Prior to using 3D printed jaws in the cell, we were machining each tool individually, and it would take a fairly large amount of time,” Max de Arriz, Manufacturing Engineer at the company, explained. “Every gripping tool needed to be either outsourced to an external machine shop or machined in house with the manufacturing capabilities at hand. Either way, manufacturing parts as critical as production line grippers was getting time consuming. As Dixon primarily produces valves and fittings, these grippers also require strength and chemical resistance, as well as wear resistance from repeated use.”
De Arriz goes onto explain that due to the strength that’s offered by the Markforged Mark Two, they now utilise Markforged parts as their primary transfer gripping system.
With the ability to produce new manufacturing solutions at unprecedented speed and cost, Dixon Valve is seeing the full benefits that additive manufacturing can bring to robotic automation. However, not all 3D printers are capable of producing parts durable enough for a factory setting. The Markforged Mark Two prints with engineering-grade Nylon or Onyx, which is part nylon and part chopped carbon fibre. It then offers the ability to reinforce parts with continuous strands of Carbon Fibre, Fibreglass or Kevlar. Parts reinforced with such materials can be 30x stronger than ABS, with comparable strength levels to 6061 aluminium (and depending on the infill, they can be even stronger).
To find out more about how Dixon Valve uses 3D printing in robotic automation, here’s an insightful video from Markforged:
We also recommend checking out the original case study on the Markforged website.