During CAxman project two Use cases were conducted - both of them resulted to be a Success Story.
The EU-supported project CAxMan has helped a small Italian engineering company to produce an innovative gearbox through 3D printing technologies. This has made their manufacturing process 20% cheaper and 40% faster.
STAM is a small engineering company based in Genoa (Italy) which develops power transmission systems in the fields of space, automation & robotics, transport and energy.
The SME has been working since 1997 on offering the best solutions to their customers; this motivation led them to invent and patent an innovative gearbox called NUGEAR (NUtating GEARbox). This gearbox couples the mathematical concept of nutation with bevel gears, reducing the high speed ratios reached by the motors in planes, satellites, rockets and other space applications, while multiplying the power (torque) of the motor.
However, producing the internal components of such a gearbox became a challenge for the Italian SME. While traditional gears are produced through conventional technologies such as hobbing, shaping and milling, the innovative gearbox required new techniques.
Thanks to their participation in the EU-supported project CAxMan, STAM was able to find a cost-effective solution for this challenge: 3D printing.
By applying the CAxMan tools, the inner parts of the gearbox were produced through additive manufacturing, more-generally known as 3D printing. The different partners of the project contributed to the process with their solutions to make it possible:
Thanks to the additive manufacturing process and the CAxMan tools, the production of the NUGEAR parts is 40% faster and 20% less expensive, the parts are 25% lighter and more efficient, and the design process is 15% shorter.
These are strong advantages for STAM, because the NUGEAR gearbox can be more competitive and generate higher margins. Also the users of the gearbox will benefit from the increased performances, as the innovative gearbox has a simple configuration with only four gears, smaller size and weight, high reliability and reduction of energy consumption compared to other existing solutions.
In addition, any SME can improve the design, engineering and production of parts with CAxMan tools, which are accessible, affordable and easy to use. The project has established a cloud platform and a marketplace with strategic European partners where other companies will soon have access to the tools, applications and services developed during the project. This will allow them to benefit from the CAxMan solutions and improve their own production systems through 3D printing technologies.
The EU-supported project CAxMan has helped NOVATRA to improve the design of AM parts used for moulds. These improvements have generated a 10% reduction in metal powder usage with a cycling time decreased by 10%.
NOVATRA (http://www.novatra.fr) is a company based in Varennes Saint Sauveur (France) that develops, manufactures and tests injection moulds for the plastics industry.
The company was founded on 1986 by three shareholders; the initial activity was based on the manufacture of moulds for the automotive and electronic markets. Quickly, the activity moved to different markets composed now by cosmetics, medical and packaging. Moulds for these sectors need complex features, but most importantly very fast cycle time. In addition, the accuracy of plastic parts becomes more and more stringent. The challenges for the European moulding industry behind the ongoing globalisation lead Novatra to increase the innovation and efficiency of its products, in order to stay competitive.
The main goal of a mould is to produce plastic parts for several years with very high precision, a good aesthetic aspect and a fast throughput. To reach all these characteristics, traditional technologies are exploited, such as: milling, grinding, Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM), etc. This way of working originates strong limitations for the manufacture of shapes and cooling systems that cannot be overcome with conventional technologies. The alternative, already used by several players, is Additive Manufacturing (AM) - generally known as 3D printing - with metal powder; however, this process is still based on the company’s know-how rather than on a scientific approach.
The EU-supported project CAxMan developed tools, enabling Novatra to conceive better cavities of the moulds. Thanks to CAxMan tools, the cavities were produced through a hybrid approach based on AM and followed by machining, to reach high quality parts:
The cavities produced with this approach are then integrated in a mould and tested on an injection machine, to assess the improvements achieved in the injection process.
Thanks to the CAxMan tools, the production of mould cavities uses 10% less powder than with current AM-based techniques that do not rely on process simulations and automatic design of inner structures. Besides, the design process is more reliable and deterministic, meaning that the right amount of extra material to be 3D-printed for subtractive finishing can be determined through simulations. The design process is also 15% faster, thanks to the automatic design of inner structures and the AM-process simulations that allow the user to overcome the conventional trial-and-error approach.
These are strong advantages for Novatra, because nowadays costs of AM are still higher than those of traditional techniques. CAxMan provides a real advantage by the optimisation of the design. The reduction of extra-material (that is 3D-printed and machined at the end of the process) turns into cost saving for metal powder and less energy consumed for 3D-printing and machining; parts are also lighter.
Moreover, Novatra’s customers will benefit from a cycle time reduction for their parts of 10%, thanks to the improved cooling system, thus increasing productivity, extending the operational life of their tooling and reducing the energy required for the moulding.
Furthermore, other companies can also improve the design, engineering and production of parts by using CAxMan tools. Indeed, the CAxMan tools are accessible, affordable and easy to use by leveraging a Cloud Platform and by joining a marketplace with strategic European projects, where other companies will soon have access to the applications and services developed during the project. This will allow them to benefit from the CAxMan tools and improve their own production systems through 3D-printing technologies.
Dr. Tor Dokken
0314 Oslo Norwegen
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