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By Steve Baker | Sep 11, 2017
Technical printing projects are common in highly regulated industries

This blog is the second in our series on technical printing. In our first blog we gave an in-depth description of what technical printing is. In this blog, we will talk about how technical printing projects go from development to production.

How are technical printing projects started? At GM Nameplate (GMN), technical printing projects start in our development department. Here the design is scrutinized, reviewed, and tested. The goal is to produce development part designs and find out quickly whether the part is manufacturable or not. This department will provide design considerations and test reports until a conclusion is drawn. Once a batch of parts has a high yield per volume and a high success rate, the project can move onto full production.

There are five phases that technical printing projects go through during development before it can move on to full-scale production, each one with specific operations. These phases are particular to technical printing projects only because of the high level of scrutiny required in development.

Phase 1: Ideation

Ideation is an ongoing conversation between the customer and GMN to identify the areas of highest design risk. This allows both parties to define steps to test design assumptions and evaluate potential design and material solutions to help build confidence about the known challenges.

Phase 2: Risk mitigation

This phase is used to validate material stability and printability, explore material handling and registration options, review curing processes, and establish a planned production approach. Defining the risks and challenges that are likely to occur allows for a plan to be made accordingly. All challenges must be addressed with extreme scrutiny because technical printed parts require much tighter tolerances.

Phase 3: Low volume functional prototyping

Low-volume prototyping is used to create functional printed parts using the materials and preliminary product design planned for use during full volume production. This could take several rounds of prototype layouts and testing, and repeating this process until a high yield success rate is achieved. With technical printing, projects in this phase become more device-specific and are outside of typical production, development, and industry standards.

Phase 4: Production development prototyping

With a suitable design identified, GMN will work on transitioning into production manufacturing development. Larger quantities of parts will be printed and evaluated, with the goal of meeting customer specifications. The parameter window for meeting the customer’s specifications is very small in technical printing, and is why technically printed parts are evaluated so thoroughly.

Phase 5: Production validation

Once the parts have passed the previous phase, the project is handed to a production team and design engineer to apply to production volume quantities.

GMN’s expertise and strict quality systems allow us to work in these highly regulated spaces and gives our clients confidence in the parts we produce for them.

For an overview of technical printing, read our previous blog in this series.

Chris Passanante, GMN
By Chris Passanante | Mar 2, 2016
Manufacturing with a 3D printer

After conducting and analyzing the results of GM Nameplate’s latest biannual customer survey, we identified growing trends in the manufacturing industry. One of these trends is the emergence and role of 3D printing within the manufacturing industry. Because a portion of our customers noted that 3D printing is impacting the way they do business, we have decided to dive deeper into the technology.

On a basic level, 3D printing is the process of creating a three-dimensional object and has been around for decades. While the technology isn’t new, the way it’s being utilized as a business tool is transforming. Within GM Nameplate’s plastic division, GMN Plastics, a 3D printer is used as a development tool because of the quick turnaround time, which can be as short as 48 hours.

GMN Plastics’ 3D printer is typically used for customer driven prototypes or internally requested parts rather than for mass production. This is because the 3D printer cannot match the repeatability or quality that a proven injection molding process can achieve. While the cycle time of a 3D printer is quite short, the overall time it would take to produce mass quantities of parts on the 3D printer is much longer than that of injection molding equipment. The 3D printer is also limited in material selection. Because of these limitations, the 3D printer serves as a strong tool for project planning rather than as a production tool.

The 3D printer operates by melting plastic and forming an object out of the material. GMN Plastics possesses software that is compatible to our 3D printer and is able to convert files to a specific format that is readable by the printer. This software writes its own Geometric Dimensioning & Tolerance (GD&T) code to direct the printer. This code tells the printer how, where, and when to move the extruder head. The plastic is heated up enough to cause the plastic to melt, but not so hot that the material degrades or burns, and is pushed through the extruder nozzle to form the piece. The nozzle is capable of moving in very fine increments to create the geometry of the part. The part size is limited by the size of the 3D printer; however, if the part is too large for the work space the design can be scaled down to give customers a general idea of the piece in real form.