If you’re familiar with 3D printing, you know that there are many different technologies available, each with its unique strengths. Using multiple technologies can be essential to achieving the best possible product design cycle because you’re able to select the best match for your application, rather than be restricted to one technology for every component.
Most companies that have adopted 3D printing in their product design prototyping or manufacturing facilities rely on more than one type of 3D printing for this reason, either through in house equipment or 3D printing services.
Whirlpool’s Multi Technology Approach
One of these innovative companies is Whirlpool. Whirlpool relies on a lineup of Stratasys 3D printer technologies such as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Photopolymerization (P3), and Stereolithography (SLA). Enabling them to reliably produce the right part for the right job. This in turn allows their product designers to unlock design freedom and incorporate a testing phase much earlier in the product design cycle. 3D printing for product design can save resources, time, and money owning the process from concept, design validation, fit and function testing, and design iteration.
This optimized design cycle with 3D printing allows companies to stay ahead of their competition by getting to market faster. Whirlpool utilizes a centralized 3D printing lab to service their multiple branches with a multi technology approach to produce custom parts quickly.
How does FDM support the Product Design Cycle?
FDM is used in the product design cycle in a few ways. It’s often used during the prototyping phase, as it has good dimensional accuracy and depending on the material selection can be an affordable option for printing large parts for fit and function. Whirlpool leverages the Stratasys Fortus 450mc and the F770 to validate CAD models for injection molding to ensure that the design will yield a good fit.
When it comes to tooling, getting a good fit the first time is imperative, otherwise you must pull a tool out of production and deal with expensive re-tooling costs. Jeff Tomlinson, Master Model Maker at Whirlpool says that FDM prints are “cheap insurance that the tool is going to cast the way that we want it to cast”. Assuring that the design is correct to confidently move into production and evade any additional tooling expense to the company.
What are the benefits of SLA?
Stereolithography provides a great surface finish. It can be more easily sanded and painted to appear like a finished part, which makes it a great tool for evaluating esthetics or using to get buy in from project stakeholders.
Appearance prototypes can be used as display pieces for tradeshows, press events, or photoshoots. Whirlpool utilizes SOMOS Evolve resin in their Stratasys Neo 450 to create parts that have excellent resolution and material properties.
How does P3 add value to the process?
P3 technology falls under the category of Digital Light Processing also known as DLP. It’s a unique technology that can provide great throughput and a wide range of materials with outstanding properties. The Whirlpool team brought this technology on board with the Stratasys Origin One to take advantage of the high heat deflection and elastomeric materials.
The print tray allows the freedom to easily swap out materials to gain access to specialty materials build after build. These parts can simulate properties close to the properties of an end use material and product, allowing for realistic testing applications as well as the potential to move into production with P3 3D printed parts.
Maximizing Product Design Success with a Combination of Technologies
Whirlpool has unlocked their additive potential with three Stratasys technologies. This combination makes them nimble to react to internal demand and empowers the product designers through the product development process.