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Afbeelding: 3D printer rompa

Print what you need: 3D printing

4 May 2021

At Rompa Group we specialize in plastic injection molding, but did you know that we also have 3D printers? Our 3D printers are used for various purposes within the Rompa Group. So what is the difference between injection molding and 3D printing? This and much more is explained in the article below.

What is 3D printing?

3D printing is a production technique in which the 3D printer converts a file into a physical product. During 3D printing, a product is created by adding plastic layer onto plastic layer. This process is repeated until the finished product is created. Each of these layers can be viewed as a cross section of the final product.

There are several different techniques for 3D printing. In this article we will tell you more about the most common form, the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) method. In this method, molten plastic is placed on a support layer and the model is built up layer upon layer.

FDM 3D printing is the most common form of 3D printing. Because we use 3D FDM printers at Rompa Group, I will discuss this technique in more detail in this article.

Afbeelding: ontwerp 3d print

What is 3D printing used for?

The potential applications of 3D printing are virtually limitless, which is why it is used in many different industries. Applications of 3D printing can be found in the medical world, but it is also used in architecture, art and the food industry.

With the FDM 3D printing method, different types of plastic can be used. PLA is a biodegradable plastic and the most used plastic for printing prototypes. Another common plastic is PRO1 plastic. PRO1 plastic is used when a prototype needs to be very strong and able to withstand heat (a PLA type with the properties of ABS).

If you need a product so quickly that you cannot wait for the delivery time from your supplier, it may be faster to print it yourself. However, if you need (much) larger amounts of the same product, it is faster and qualitatively better to make them by injection molding, or to order the product from a supplier such as Rompa Group.

3D printing is also a good option for making products that do not actually exist or are normally not available separately - think of small parts for technical maintenance, or a holder to use on your desk. The possibilities with 3D printing are endless, within the limits of the printer itself.

We will explain more about the application of 3D-printing within the Rompa group later on in the article.

How is injection molding different?

In 3D printing, a product is usually built up layer by layer, which means the product can harden out layer by layer. This process takes longer, because the next layer cannot be printed until the layer underneath has cured sufficiently. If you print a small product at normal quality, this will take about 10 to 20 minutes. When using an injection molding process, the same product can be ready within 40 seconds. If you were to try to print the product faster, and not wait long enough, it could collapse or assume the wrong shape.

In injection molding, all the plastic needed to make the finished product is injected into a mold all at once. The plastic then cools down in the mold, ensuring that the product cannot deform once it is out of the mold. This process is faster than 3D printing because the entire product can be made in one go and is not built up layer by layer.

Afbeelding: 3D geprinte matrijs

What does Rompa use 3D printing for?

At Rompa Group we use 3D printers to print prototypes. This way we get a clear picture of what can be produced by the injection molding machine later. This also gives our engineers the opportunity to check whether the design is correct, and whether any adjustments may need to be made.

Based on the 3D-printed prototype, the customer can see whether they are satisfied with the design at any point in the process. Since the product is still in the development phase, where the 3D printer is used, the mold does not need to be changed and adjustments can be made easily.

Another application of 3D printing that we use at Rompa is (partly) 3D printed molds. Because the cooling part of the mold is built up layer by layer during the 3D printing process, you can run the cooling pipes in any desired shape, resulting in better cooling of the product. Want to know more? Then please read our article about the 3D-printed mold with conformal cooling.

Want to know more?

3D printing can be a useful solution in many situations. Are you curious about the opportunities provided by 3D printing for your organization, or how it could contribute to your product development? Please do not hesitate to contact us!

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