East/West Industries, Inc. is an aerospace designer and manufacturer focused on producing aircraft seats and products that save aircrew lives. Founded in 1968, this woman-owned business serves major aircraft OEMs such as Boeing, Lockheed, and Sikorsky and is the recipient of multiple quality and supplier awards.
Metal Forming Die Challenge
Part of East/West’s production involves fabricating sheet metal components. One particular customer job required the use of a machined forming die. However, the die was found damaged just before the job was started. Because East/West’s machine shop was already committed to production parts, a new tool would require outsourcing, jeopardizing East/West’s ability to meet the customer’s delivery timeline. Even if the machine shop had capacity, a newly manufactured die would require the purchase of tool steel and time to machine the die’s complex shape, also putting the delivery schedule at risk.
East/West owns a Fortus 450mc™ 3D printer and uses it to make concept models, workholding tools, and assembly fixtures. It can print with FDM® Nylon 12CF carbon fiber material, a composite polymer with sufficient strength and rigidity to use in
place of metal for specific applications. Instead of machining a replacement die that risked extending the production schedule, East/West engineers decided to print the full-size forming die with the Fortus 450mc using FDM Nylon 12CF material.
Impact from using a 3D Printer
The 3D printed die worked flawlessly, providing the rigidity and toughness needed to complete the job. The die’s complex shape was also not a factor because 3D printing is free from the typical manufacturability constraints of machining.
Outsourcing a new die would have taken about eight weeks, but East/West printed and deployed the die in less than a week, an 87% lead time reduction. In addition, cost savings amounted to $4000, an 80% decrease over the cost of an outsourced tool.
Interested in learning more about 3D printed dies? Download our Metal Forming Guide to learn everything you need to know.