The following events, although fictional, are very real problems in companies with low volume product needs.
Design Engineer (DE): " I just spoke with our tooling vendor and they are quoting us $15,000 just for the tool and the lead time is 4 weeks."
Engineering Manager (EM): Gets out his calculator. "We only need 50 parts, that’s $300 per part not including their molding costs. We need these out in the field next week if possible. What’s with the long lead time?"
DE: "Remember we designed in some complex features because it needs to fit with other components. Redesigning this will take another week minimum and we might have to create multiple parts to make this work, costing more to get it tooled."
EM: "What about those FDM rapid prototype parts we had built in a couple of days and tested last month? They withstood our testing requirements and as I recall they had some fairly complex features as well. Do you think using FDM would work for these parts in the field?"
DE: "You know what, this might be the perfect application for this part, I’ll go find out what 3D printing service she used for those prototypes."
Sometime in the near future …….
The design engineer gave it shot and had a first article part delivered overnight for validation. The part worked great, so the rest of the 50 parts were ordered. The 3D printing service provider was able to build the parts over the weekend and had them delivered and on the doorstep by Tuesday, ready for assembly.
The engineers were treated like heroes for their ingenuity in getting the products into the field faster than ever before.
EM: "Using FDM as an alternative to tooling is our best secret weapon yet!"
Lesson Learned: Always have an alternative manufacturing method like FDM that can fit your budget and time. FDM IS an alternative to tooling and outsourcing can provide yet another vehicle to getting parts in your hands fast. For more details, visit RedEyeOnDemand.