Contract manufacturer PPI-Time Zero promises its customers performance, precision and integrity. As part of its process to deliver reliable, high quality components and products to military, aerospace, medical, controls and instrumentation markets, PPI-Time Zero does a lot of prototyping. According to Germ Orndorff, Senior Advanced Engineering Manager at PPI, prototyping plays an important role in confirming client expectations and streamlining communication among internal departments.
To drive its prototyping workflow, PPI-Time Zero uses a 3D Systems ProJet® MJP 2500 Plus that also serves a number of additional applications, including jigs, fixtures, and mold modeling, among others. Beyond these routine tasks, PPI-Time Zero has found a novel 3D printing application that saves the company an average of 40-50 hours per week using the engineering-grade VisiJet® ProFlex (M2G-DUR) material.
A need to protect high value motors
At PPI-Time Zero, a project is not complete until the order arrives safely in the hands of its customers. For the contract in question, PPI-Time Zero is responsible for manufacturing costly motors that must be shipped to a client in the defense, aerospace and security industry for final installation. According to Orndorff, these motors posed a two-fold challenge. The first was in finding an efficient way to protect the motor and gears from debris and fluids in the cleaning process; the second was in protecting them throughout shipping. Orndorff says that although incidents in transport were infrequent, the high cost of each motor and the quality standards of PPI warranted a solution that would preclude any mishaps. The solution to each challenge came from a single source with the introduction of VisiJet ProFlex to PPI-Time Zero’s material portfolio.
The automotive duct B & J Specialty redesigned for more efficient cooling features multiple irregular and curved surfaces. In the original mold design, straight cooling lines were drilled through a hub and stator block that were used to adjust the mold geometry to account for warpage. As is often the case with irregular shapes, several key features of the duct were distanced from the cooling lines due to the limitation of the straight channels. The resulting temperature variations generated various residual stresses that tended to bend the part as it cooled. In the past this problem was addressed by extending the cooling cycle to ensure the part was fully solidified before removing it from the mold and adjusting the inserts to account for any remaining warpage. The problem with this approach was that lengthening the cooling cycle reduced productivity and increased the cost of making the part.
Versatile 3D printing materials
In conjunction with high resolution and good surface finish, the ProJet MJP 2500 Plus offers PPI-Time Zero a versatile 3D printing solution in terms of material capability. As part of validating new materials for use, Orndorff prints a standard step gauge to verify tolerances and get a sense of material properties. When he did this with VisiJet ProFlex, his observations of the material gave him an idea for how he could bring greater efficiency into his team’s workflow. “The VisiJet ProFlex printed perfectly in terms of dimensions, and also demonstrated the ability to deform,” said Orndorff. “As it turns out, it filled a desperate need in our workflow for improving the cleaning and shipping of these motors, and we have resolved both issues with the same print.”
A time saving solution
Although PPI-Time Zero had a manual process to seal the motors from contaminants while cleaning, there was no previous solution to protect them from damage during shipping. Furthermore, the manual sealing process was time consuming, taking upwards of half an hour per motor. On a contract for 50,000 units, the man-hours added up quickly.
With VisiJet ProFlex, Orndorff has been able to design and print a snap fit cover that can be assembled around the motor and sealed with a clamp to make it watertight for cleaning. Due to its low modulus, semi-rigid material properties, VisiJet ProFlex is dimensionally stable without being brittle, which also allows the cover to effectively protect the motors in transit. According to Orndorff, no cover is ever wasted: “The covers are sent back and we use them again in later cleanings and shipments, so these are good for repeat uses and are incredibly effective at ensuring the quality of our shipments.”
With this solution, PPI-Time Zero has found a way to cut significant time from its process as well as safeguard the arrival of its products. “We probably do 80 to 100 of these motors a day, so we have already felt the impact of this improvement,” says Orndorff.
PPI-Time Zero has also found VisiJet ProFlex to be excellent for grips on handheld tools and devices, and is expanding applicable use cases to bring more value to its workflow and customers.