Tooling solutions company Wilson Tool International has revealed how it turned to Carbon’s Digital Light Synthesis technology to 3D print a line of oil reservoirs for its QuickTap tapping tool. The additive manufacturing technology enabled the company to bring its cost savings up to 60% and reduce its lead times by up to 50%.
Prior to using 3D printing for this specific application, Wilson Tool says it was facing difficulties in keeping up with demand for QuickTap tapping tool solutions for punch presses. The main challenges it faced were caused by long lead times and the high cost of fabricating metal oil reservoirs for the system. Up until recently, the company made the reservoirs using cold-rolled steel, which was both time consuming to process and expensive.
These challenges were further exacerbated by the fact that Wilson Tool had to create six different configurations for the oil reservoirs to match different types of punch presses. All these factors culminated in a situation where Wilson Tool was not only spending money and time producing the reservoirs but was also spending money storing them in inventory so that customer needs could be met in a timely manner.
Further, each of the six oil reservoir configurations was made up of various components, which had to be punched and formed and then welded together. As a case study elaborates: “Because the seams were welded, each tank needed to go through a rigorous testing process to ensure the reservoir did not leak when subjected to pressurization. If the reservoir was improperly installed, it could pose a hazard to the tool and to tool operators, if it was struck by a moving part of the punch press.”
In searching for an alternative solution to its oil reservoir QuickTap challenge, Wilson Tool explored various possibilities, including machining a reservoir out of aircraft-grade aluminum, and blow molding the reservoir. Still, the costs and lead times were not good enough, so eventually Wilson Tool turned to additive manufacturing and, specifically, Carbon’s Digital Light Synthesis technology.
In its investigation of 3D printing for this particular application, Wilson Tool determined that Carbon’s technology had the potential to meet its quality, cost and lead time goals. Once it had selected Carbon, the company went ahead to produce a proof of concept part using Carbon’s RPU (rigid polyurethane) 70 material.
Once printed, the part successfully underwent a range of tests and was qualified across all Wilson Tool’s criteria. Notably, the part cost 60% less than a traditional part and enabled Wilson Tool to cut lead times by up to 50%. The part was also safer than its predecessor because it was printed as a single unit.
Following the proof of concept, Wilson Tool forged ahead to validate the design more broadly, and created five different iterations using Carbon’s DLS platform to optimize printability with an internal lattice and adding a signature surface finish. Wilson Tool also added part numbers and branded elements to the oil reservoir files. The largest reservoir models were also equipped with an internal lattice structure to improve mechanical rigidity. This iteration process took only three months.
Since then, the 3D printed oil reservoirs for Wilson Tool’s QuickTap tapping tool have been validated for production. In fact, they are presently in production. Wilson Tool says the 3D printed RPU 70 parts will enable it to offer its clients lower prices, shorter lead times and safer parts overall.
“We knew additive manufacturing could offer us new paths in industrial tooling,” commented Brian Lee, Director of R&D and Technology Solutions at Wilson Tool International. “Our experience with the oil reservoir demonstrated that Carbon’s process and materials offer fundamentally new applications and capabilities.”
Last month, Wilson Tool International launched Wilson Tool Additive, a new division dedicated to 3D printing made-to-order bending tools and other fabrication support parts for the company’s clients.