P.A. and 3D printing for production tools.
P.A. uses 3D printing to produce tools that require durable materials and that are to be used under high pressure.
The company based in Rubiera, in the province of Reggio Emilia, and operates in the high pressure washing sector. A sector in which the performance of materials plays a decisive role. The solutions chosen by P.A. have fully satisfied the technical requirements.
Founded in 1982, it produces tools such as valves, spary guns and various taps as components for high pressure cleaners, car wash systems, industrial washing systems.
P.A. operates on international markets, exporting more than 85% of its production, with an annual turnover in 2018 reached 35 million Euros. Today it is the undisputed leader in its sector, with a turnover in constant growth year after year and its products in continuous expansion. Moreover, P.A. is internationally recognized for its superior production quality compared to its competitors, which is also the result of the efforts made to maintain the entire production chain in Italy. Over the years, P.A. continued to produce internally the most important components of their products, with the aim of ensuring absolute quality that sub-contracted producers would not have been able to guarantee.
Meet Fabio Colletta, designer at P.A.
How long ago was the interest in 3D printing born? How, and for which products?
“Our interest in 3D printing arose about 3 years ago, with the idea of speeding up the prototyping of new products and starting to touch the design and, in some cases, even the operation of the articles from the early stages of design, even before going into the car to produce the pre-production of the article.”
Have you purchased a printer or have you preferred to use a printing service? How often do you use 3D printers?
“Initially, we were using external service, but the costs and turnaround times did not give us the efficiency we were looking for. So we bought a FormLab Form 2. We recently expanded our fleet with the purchase of a Markforged X7 and another Form 2. We use 3D printing a couple of times a week.”
What are the advantages of 3D printing in the production tools field ?
“Let’s take into account the time it takes for a company to obtain an injection mould today. It is necessary to calculate the times related to the machine tooling, production programming, quality control, etc.. And when the part finally arrives at the testing department, we just have to hope that everything goes well. In practice, everything is rarely perfect, so you find yourself having lost a month or two and then having to start over from the design phase. That’s why 3D printers play a very important role: it is the answer to the aesthetics, assembly and operational needs of the industry. Without taking into he 3D printing certinly involves. Indeed, nowadays prototyping costs are becoming lower and lower.
In which phases of the processing of a P.A. product 3D printing is used?
“Everything starts from a commercial request, then the project is entrusted to the technical office and finally to the designer who will take care of it. The latter studies the different possibilities of development and elaborates the various 3D mathematics and then presents them to the technical direction.
In this phase, 3D printing plays a very important role. The designer can present the 3D prototype of the various solutions, thus allowing the technical management, and often also the final customer, to evaluate the project by touching it with their own hands. In this way you can see the real size, aesthetics, ergonomics, etc..
After approval, the 3D printed article can be submitted to the attention of the various departments that will follow the production process. The collaboration with the technical department in this step will be fundamental, as the project will certainly undergo some changes, to speed up and optimize production costs.
Thanks to 3D printing, we can create tools with resistant materials, such as masks, assembly tools, handles, etc..
The prints made with X7 by Markforged are wear-resistant: the base material onyx already has a very good resistance, but in addition there is the possibility to load, even partially, the parts printed with various types of fiber (glass, carbon, kevlar, etc..). And this is very useful in situations where the toolhas to undergo more intense stresses.
The partnership with 3DZ
“Our collaboration started thans to our research activity: 3DZ, in fact, has made available to us its services, providing the opportunity to test its 3D printing. We started with the resin printing of a machined body that we already had in production. The idea was to compare it to understand what kind of aesthetic and technical definition this technology could offer us today.
In addition to supplying us with the machines, 3DZ also printed numerous prototyping parts for us, thanks to uncomparable fast and professional assistance. Nevertheless we also tested some consumables (resins, etc.),to verify which ones suit the most our productional needs. All this, always meeting the agreed deadlines”.
Roberto della Chiesa, 3DZ Emilia Sales Manager tells us about the partnership.
“The collaboration with P.A. has been initially possible thanks to a Form 2, a printer that is still used. Over time, however, the needs of the company evolved as the time did. Nowadays it is crucial to produce parts with a 3D printing technology made to shape tools with resistant materials. Hence the winning choice of Markforged X7, which offers the possibility of internally reinforcing parts with long fibres. The use of carbon fibre reinforcement has allowed P.A. to produce parts subject to enormous efforts in a very short time, streamlining the work of the technical office as well as that of the workshop. Although it is a filament printer, the quality of the parts produced is incredible.