Long-established product design firm, Swany, based in Nagano, Japan, has responded to the competitive Asian manufacturing environment by moving from focusing on a single product to providing a wide range of industrial design services.
A key element of the company’s iterative product design process is injection molding prototype parts. Metal molds are still the choice for long production runs, but they take weeks to produce and can costs tens of thousands of dollars. But using its PolyJet-based Objet260 Connex 3D Printer from Stratasys, Swany began producing inexpensive 3D printed plastic molds. These 3D printed molds, produced in just hours, enable the molding of product prototypes, which make the design cycles lightning-fast. Designs that don’t work are quickly modified and tried again.
“It is important for our engineers to be able to make mistakes,” explained Yoshihiro Hashizume, president of Swany “If they are afraid to fail, they won’t challenge orthodox thinking and create new ideas.”
For example, Swany’s engineers recently designed a new automotive LED headlight reflector. By using Stratasys 3D printed injection molds, they were able to produce a few parts at a time in the final material in order to evaluate and refine the design efficiently.
The entire process, quicker and less costly than using metal molds, facilitated getting the final design into production and on the market much faster.
Designing parts in-house, rather than outsourcing to cheaper outfits outside of Japan, could represent a new niche for Asian manufacturing. Rather than cutting manufacturing jobs, Hashizume said, “3D printing is creating jobs for mold companies. It would be great if this kind of new partnership can help the economic revival of manufacturing in Japan.”
This blog post is part of our series Tools Without Tooling, where we are exploring the benefits of 3D printing in the manufacturing industry. To read more posts from this series, click here.