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Modern Metal Forming: How 3D Printing has Changed the Game

By <a href="" target="_self">Sarah Smith</a>

By Sarah Smith

Posted on October 16, 2023

Traditional metal forming is being replaced by tough 3D printed forms. What once took weeks to produce – heavy expensive rigid metal forms, are now being replaced by speedy and light carbon fiber filled 3D printed tooling.

This article highlights how 3D printing is modernizing metal forming practices, saving manufacturers and machine shops time and money by making the switch to in house 3D printed metal forming dies.

What is Metal Forming?

Metal forming is a process that takes sheets of metal and compresses them between a form. This usually is done on a hydraulic press that uses uniform pressure to mold the metal sheet blanks into a shape. Metal forming dies are often made from CNC stock aluminum and other metals. That means that if done in house, they take up valuable machine time, and if outsourced can result in long lead times, and are expensive to update if a mistake was made or design is changed.

The beauty of moving towards 3D printed forms is that the cycle between design time and use is short and cost effective, making it easier for companies to act quickly and to make design iterations along the way if necessary.

Composite 3d printing for metal forming tool

3D printed metal forming tool

3D Printed Metal Forming Dies in Action

East/West Industries, a tier one aerospace supplier is seeing an 87% time and 80% cost savings by making the switch to in house 3D printing. They utilize the Fortus 450mc from Stratasys. The Fortus 450mc is capable of running a wide variety of specialty FDM materials from Polycarbonate, to ULTEM, to Nylon12CF. The Fortus 450mc boasts a large platform, heated build chamber, and compatibility with the Open Material License program through Stratasys, which unlocks the machines’ ability to print 3rd party materials in addition to the already impressive lineup of filaments.

East/West Industries 3D Printed Dies Video

Graco, a manufacturer of industrial and commercial fluid and coatings handling products has also seen significant time and cost savings of 90% and 80% respectively. Graco engineers turned to 3D printing to solve their metal forming lead-times. They utilized the Stratasys F370CR to print in the carbon fiber filled Nylon CF10. The parts had the stiffness and rigidity to replace their previous tooling. This is another great example of leveraging in house production to reduce lead-times.

Breaking the boundaries with 3D printed dies

3D printing is making strides in the manufacturing space. Up until recent years, the prevalent belief was that 3D printing was for engineering prototypes. However, we’ve bridged the gap from prototyping to end-use parts in part due to material developments. The advancements in materials have allowed 3D printed parts to be accepted and validated in applications with strict quality standards, in industries such as aerospace and automotive.

FDM Nylon CF10 press brake

FDM Nylon CF10 press brake

The end of metal dies?

Metal dies for metal forming are still a great option for high volume forming. But now, these advancements are making their way to brake presses and hydro formers. The high-performance polymers on the market today, such as Polycarbonates and Carbon Filled Nylon have the strength required to shape heavy gauge metals for low run production, which is the ideal application for 3D printed dies.

3D printed tools significantly outperform metal ones for hard tool design validation to bridge the prototype to production phase and for low run production.

Benefits Review

  • Design, Test and Perfect Faster – improve your design and manufacturing cycles
  • Save on Production Costs – limit engineering time, raw material cost, and expensive retooling costs
  • Reduce Lead-times – in house printing gets you parts in hours rather than weeks
  • Reduce Waste – reduce metal scrap, CNC man hours, and part waste

Interested in learning more about 3D printed dies?

Download our Metal Forming Guide to learn everything you need to know.

Article by <a href="" target="_self">Sarah Smith</a>

Article by Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is a Hardware Products Marketing Specialist for the TriMech Advanced Manufacturing business