MultiJet 3D Printing and Span Tech: together to develop innovative conveyor systems
Span Tech and 3D printing
Founded in 1989, Span Tech (info) is recognized as a global leader in unique and customizable conveyor systems that are used in a wide range of industries, from food and beverage production to packaging distribution, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and more.
Span Tech designs and manufactures modular conveyors made with durable plastic chain systems that can meet any size and motion requirement, from inclining, to curving, to helical. In the world of smoothly running high-speed switches, spirals and wedges, prototyping is key for cost-effective development.
Looking for a new challange, Span Tech owner Bud Layne has made 3D printing part of his company’s development process for the past several years.
Why the ProJet MJP 2500 Plus?
Thinking that 3D printing is the future, Span Tech decided to purchase a 3D Systems ProJet® MJP 2500 Plus and VisiJet® Armor (M2G-CL) and VisiJet® M2R-BK materials. Mr Layne wanted his engineers to have access to a faster and more robust inhouse solution to enable more thorough and cost-effective development. The accuracy and material properties of the ProJet MJP 2500 Plus and VisiJet materials answered those requirements and fit seamlessly into Span Tech’s workflow.
Materials that match functional requirements .
Also, the materials were a key feature leading Mr. Layne to purchase the printer. A big motivation behind Span Tech’s purchase of the ProJet MJP 2500 Plus was to expand in-house material options. According to Barbour, the previous 3D printing solution Span Tech used did not offer the right material properties and produced parts that were brittle and grew fragile over time. With the ProJet MJP printer, Span Tech now uses two different VisiJet materials, capitalizing on the strengths of each to achieve the optimal properties required for its prototypes. These prototypes use both VisiJet Armor (M2GCL), a tough, ABS-like clear performance plastic, and VisiJet M2R-BK, a high modulus, rigid black plastic.
The era of the ProJet MJP 2500 Plus
Since installation, Span Tech has used these 3D printed parts to validate designs within a test system to introduce faster and more frequent design cycles, increase innovation, and boost confidence in final tooling investments.
Before purchasing its MJP system, Span Tech prototyped using a small desktop 3D printer, occasional one-off 3D printed parts, and traditional machining,
Span Tech’s final conveyor systems are an injection-molded plastic assembly of eleven to twelve parts, depending on the component’s placement within the system. In order to prototype these parts, Span Tech R&D Engineer Scott Barbour prints them in full size on the ProJet MJP 2500 Plus and assembles them just like the final product, with functional features such as snap fits, sliding connectors, and integrated metal pieces including shafts and bearings. Taking advantage of the ProJet’s build platform and accuracy, Span Tech is able to print parts ranging from the largest, which are roughly six inches by four inches, to the smallest, which are less than half an inch in diameter and only a few millimeters thick
Accelerating development cycles with real world feedback.
Most recently, Span Tech has been using its ProJet to develop a new guide rail system. According to Barbour, the printer has been invaluable in accelerating design iterations and enabling the company to deliver consistent improvements. The Span Tech bracket is designed to move and can both collapse and extend. To prototype these brackets, Barbour prints each part separately and assembles them to get a sense of how the final product will fit together. When anticipated clearances are not viable once prototyped, updating the design is a simple matter of tweaking the CAD model in SOLIDWORKS® and printing it again.
3D Sprint, the software that makes the difference
Each printer in the 3D Systems MJP 2500 series comes with 3D Sprint® software. This system is dedicated to the manufacture of plastic additives. Also, according to Mr. Barbour, it is easy to learn and use.
“3D Sprint is intuitive and easy to use. I was able to discover it before anyone had time to show it to me, and we were able to train our intern on it in no time.”
Once the parts are printed, post-treatment with the ProJet paver takes about an hour to melt the backing material. Then, it takes about 20 minutes in the ultrasonic cleaner with oil. The ProJet paver is a post-treatment accessory offered by 3D Systems that eliminates the need for manual part cleaning. According to Mr. Barbour, the use of oil makes it possible to obtain almost crystalline VisiJet Armor parts and black-rich VisiJet M2R-BK parts.