Mobile robots like drones are advancing at a rapid rate, and the traditional manufacturing techniques used to make them are struggling to keep up.
3D printing has found added value in the robotics industry for this reason. It enables rapid prototyping and small series production of parts without the restraints posed by traditional manufacturing. By bringing these aspects of development in-house, or through a partnership with a specialist 3D printing company, engineers are able to develop new products at a lower cost faster than ever before.
Avular, a mobile robotics design company in the Netherlands, has used 3D printing to enhance their product development and engineering cycle for a few years now, and they recently partnered with HP Digital Manufacturing Network member Materialise to take this to another level.
By partnering with Materialise who have access to HP’s Multi Jet Fusion Technology, Avular can develop strong parts in full colour. HP’s MJF technology is the only 3D printing technology in the world that prints nylon in full colour. Other types of 3D printing require post-processing, such as painting, for colour.
Multi Jet Fusion Technology
The decision to utilise Multi Jet Fusion Technology came from the desire to manufacture strong and lightweight functional parts in full colour.
Multi Jet Fusion, also known as MJF, 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 in black and white or full colour.
With full-colour 3D printing, a 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.
A Flexible Production Technology
The nature of Avular’s business means they need a production technology that is flexible to meet the demands of their customers.
Avular’s customers require custom parts for products, such as drones. But they don’t always have the expertise or capability to make them themselves, so they turn to the expertise of Avular to keep their development cycle on track.
For example, a customer might come to Avular with a specific business case requiring a series of parts for a product. Avular will then look at the specifications and design a product in CAD to suit their requirements. Once approved by the client, Avular will then upload it to the online portal at Materialise and order it on demand.
For Avular, the production workflow really is as simple as that.
Within a week, Avular receives delivery of the products which are then shipped directly to the customer, eliminating the need for storage space. Alternatively, the physical models are used to iterate the design during functional testing. The short lead time for parts with Materialise means developing a series of parts and perfecting them takes just a few months and sometimes just a few weeks, depending on the spec.
3D printing with HP’s Multi Jet Fusion Technology has changed the way Avular puts products to market for their customers. And by using an HP DMN certified partner, they have quality assurance for all the parts they order.
3D printer: HP Jet Fusion series.
This case study was first covered by HP. All images are credited to HP. If you enjoyed this case study, you can find more like it at our engineering and manufacturing page. To find out more about HP Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) technology, read our guide.