Mechatronic S.r.l. is an industrial equipment manufacturer. Their core business involves the design and production of machines for industrial painting plants, some of which they manufacture in large quantities, but most orders are for custom machines. Because of this, they need a reliable and fast way to make custom parts.
The company is headquartered in Italy, where they produce their machines. One of their biggest customers is a global leader in the industrial painting sector. This customer orders customised machines from Mechatronic, which they then sell to their own clients. The industry is highly competitive so any manufacturing advantage can be huge.
HP 3D Printing Technology
3D printing offers Mechatronic just that. “Our customers are very demanding,” says CEO Luigi Volontè. “If we weren’t able to meet their standards and requirements, they would have companies lining up to take our place.”
The company experimented with 3D printing for a number of years before they discovered HP’s unique technology, Multi Jet Fusion. “We’ve been experimenting with 3D printing for over three years and have actually built extrusion-based systems for our clients,” says Volontè. “In a short time, we were able to produce prototypes optimized for HP’s Multi Jet Fusion, and then produce final parts using the exact same technology.”
HP Jet Fusion utilises two perpendicular carriages to transform powdered plastic (Nylon 12) into solid parts. It fuses nylon and detailing agents together on the print bed, with infrared lamps which fuse layers in a single pass. This enables it to build highly complex parts. MJF uses an ink (fusing agent) which promotes the absorption of infrared light which occurs on the print bed with in-built infrared lamps.
One of the biggest advantages of MJF over SLA and FDM is no support material is needed, which means you can design parts without having to build supports. This frees up design potential even further.
“When CNC Machining metal parts, we’ve found that the more complicated the geometry, the more expensive the part,” says Volontè. “Therefore, we tended to work with simple, suboptimal geometries that were ‘good enough’ for the job. With HP Multi Jet Fusion, we simply don’t need to compromise on quality.”
The HP Jet Fusion’s ability to print in full colour is also a gamechanger. The Jet Head sweeps across the printed powder, depositing millions of drops of light-absorbing ink. These inks have different properties. Some are binding accelerators, others are colours. An infrared heater then sweeps across the bed. Some of the ink remains as full-colour powder, while ink-marked areas absorb the IR energy to sinter and fuse solid with the layer below.
“We are learning from and building on our early successes,” says Volontè. “Now we try to understand if a new piece can be made through Additive Manufacturing at a very early stage of product development. The earlier the better, as this will prevent rework and redesign at the end of the process. I admit that my designers are so enthusiastic that I have a bit of the opposite problem: I must keep them from trying to move everything to our new HP Jet Fusion 3D 4200 Printing Solution!”.
One of the biggest advantages of MJF over SLA and FDM is no support material is needed, which means it is possible to design parts for machines without having to build support structure. This frees up design potential. Of course, SLA has its place and remains one of the best technologies for producing highly complex, but it is nowhere near as scalable as MJF, nor can it produce parts as quickly or in full colour.
The strength and mechanical properties of HP Multi Jet Fusion have also allowed Mechatronic to replace some of their metal parts with plastic. For example, they replaced a series of parts in the build of one industrial paint machine to reduce its weight and improve the service life of the product. In many cases, the 3D printed parts function better than the metal equivalent due to being manufactured to such tight tolerances.
The biggest benefit of 3D printing to Mechatronic’s workflow, however, has been the increased design freedom it offers. With 3D printing, they have been able to create parts that work better and iterate on their designs quickly. Because they can print in colour, they have also eliminated the need to paint parts.
To manufacture their parts, they use HP 3D HR PA 12, a polyamide with a very fine grain suitable for highly detailed applications such as engraving. It’s also excellent for printing thin walls with its exceptional dimensional stability.
3D Printer: HP Jet Fusion 3D printers.
Material: HP 3D HR PA 12
This information was first published by HP here. You can find out more about the HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer series on the official HP website or by reading our guide. All images in this article are credited to HP.