Tecalum Industrial is a company based in Girona, Spain, specializing in manufacturing aluminium products for the industrial sector for over 40 years. In order to produce these parts, which they design from scratch according to the needs of each customer, they need some very specific jigs and fixtures, custom made for every mold they work with. In the beginning, they used to commission an external vendor to produce mechanized tooling, such as nylon clamps, for them. However, this was an expensive and slow process, involving waits of weeks at a time in order to receive the parts.
Because of these disadvantages of externalizing the production of their customized tooling, they had been thinking about implementing additive manufacturing at their facility for quite some time when, finally, in 2017 the plethora of 3D printing success stories convinced them and they purchased their first BCN3D Sigmax. Today, Tecalum Industrial owns four Sigmax 3D printers, all operating non-stop in order to keep their production moving.
In the first year of implementing 3D printing, they registered the cost per piece of every tooling, jig, and fixture 3D printed and compared it with what the cost would have been if they kept on working with the external vendor. According to their numbers, they saved the whopping amount of almost 25.000€ in just 12 months.
3D printing for Tecalum: maximizing efficiency on a daily basis
“The two main advantages of using BCN3D’s printers are significant time-savings and cost reductions achieved. One of the other benefits of working with these 3D printers is their great versatility,” confirms Marc Linares, the company’s Production Management Deputy. Indeed, thanks to aspects like the availability of a wide range of nozzle sizes, each of them designed to offer optimal solutions to different needs, the possibilities are endless. For example, the clamps for their five-axis machine are mostly printed with larger-size nozzles because they do not require a high level of detail, but they need to be sturdy in order to resist their daily use. “We prefer the quickness and part hardness that the 0.8 and 1mm nozzles provide“, explains Linares.
Another important advantage provided by additive manufacturing to Tecalum is maximizing efficiency. As the extrusion of aluminium takes place in Canada at their sister company, Pexal Tecalum Canada, the engineers working at the Girona facility have usually around three weeks to custom-make the necessary tooling until the extrusion molds arrive. Before implementing 3D printing, they had to get the pieces right at the first time, as the external vendor took approximately the same amount of time to produce the first batch of tools. However, with the Sigmax, they are able to iterate repeatedly in order to achieve the best possible design, while still keeping the costs lower than the external vendor. Their attempt to maximize efficiency with additive manufacturing has been so successful that they have also started to 3D print a number of tools for assembling and transporting pieces of aluminium.
When it comes to materials, Tecalum has been using PLA since the very beginning. Even though nylon is thought to be more resistant, PLA serves its purpose well and they never had any issues with it, proving to be ideal for their parts’ mechanical requirements. They are also entertaining the idea of trying out prints made with ABS or carbon fiber in order to discover the possibilities provided by the numerous types of filaments available on the market. “We couldn’t be happier! The Sigmax is a reliable printer that helps us enormously to optimize our production workflow“, assures Marc Linares, not only by reducing costs and time but also maximizing efficiency, making sure that Tecalum is always able to quickly and efficiently cater to the ever-changing needs of their customers.
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