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3D Engineering Prototype Makers

biglou

#1
Does anyone work for or know of any companies that lease stereo lith (SLS, SLA, FDM) systems for 3D prototyping?
Thanks.
 

RM_guy

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#2
Lou, I don't know anyone who leases them but unless you have a ton of stuff to make you're better off just having a job shop make them for you. There are a lot of places that can make SLAs and such fairly cheap. By the time you got trained and became proficient you could have the parts in hand. Also, depending on what you are doing, you may want different processes for different parts and a job shop would have the various machines but you would have just one style.

Email me and I can hook you up some vendors that we work with.
 

biglou

#3
Yeah, the issue is, we have to do this stuff ourselves, CNC'ing out of hard foams, and it takes up our time when we should be doing other things, like, our regular jobs! I think we've pursued the job shop route, and we do have a couple of great local places for steel prototypes. It's these odd-shaped cast and dipped pieces that are kicking out butts. Price and turnaround time from job shops would be paramount.
 

BillyWho

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#5
Lou, are you trying to make proto molds or actuall pieces to check fit and funtion. We have a ZCorp machine for prototyping, it is a sterio Lith machine that uses a powder type of material and then you cure with cecomet to make it stone hard or they have other resins that make it rubber like. I grow all my funnels to check fit and function, it's accurate to ".001 to ".002, it prints fast also. What size platen area do you need? Ours is 8X10 ( inches) I think. The website is www.zcorp.com.
 

biglou

#6
Thanks for all the input fellas. Billy, I'll check out that site tomorrow, maybe show the boss. I found an interesting article on the costs of RP (Rapid Prototyping). It's just scary how much the machines, supplies, service contracts and repairs/spare parts are. About a quarter million to get started for what we need, from what I can gather. That ain't gonna fly!

The size of what we prototype varies, and right now, we are doing a lot of multi-piece CNC jobs that we glue together. We're making chair arms, odd-shaped castings, and entire chairs that are just mock-ups for design reviews, etc. One of the biggest killers right now is the Z axis. As you can imagine, a chair seat and back, when a one-piece design, requires a large Z. What we are doing is cutting it in two at the seat/back junction. We are also having to do a dual set-up on our mill due to 13.5" max Y travel, ie: setting up and machining forward half, then re-zeroing on the back half after sliding the mill head back, and then machining the rear half. We also have a large tablet router for really large pieces, but setup on that machine is a gigantic PITA, and the accuracy is not as good as the mill. .002 vs .0005 or .0001 I think.

I belive the route we are going to pursue is to acquire another CNC mill, another seat of the CNC software and set up our own CNC area where we can watch the mill run from our location. Currently, we have to go over to the production plant when the mill is not in use by the machine shop and run our parts. And right now the only seat of the CNC software is on one of the mfg. eng. PC.

I'll take some pics of what we're working on right now and post them tomorrow if I get done in time, or else the next day. I have to run the bottom side of a seat casting tomorrow, in two stages.
 

BillyWho

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#7
I hear ya on the Z, we have an extended Z but we could use another 6 inches sometimes. 13.5 on the Y is really small Mister, I feal for you lol. We have four 40-20's and one 80-30 Fadals. Our Zcorp machine was like 30 grand, but I think you'd want the bigger one which is closer to a hundred I think. We often take our bigger parts and split them up and add dowel conecters for assembly and match up. What kind of softwear are you useing? The Zcorp does color also, a lot slower but cool, and it prints the funnel for example in 2 1/2 hours, you can't beat it.
 

biglou

#8
Yeah, we got us a real Frankenstein setup going here. We use OneCNC for writing the toolpath code, SolidWorks for the initial drawing, save as .iges, then import and save as .cad using OneCNC. Thing is, when we write the code, we have to save it as ".NC" then go back and rename the file extention ".CNC" as opposed to just saving as a .CNC. It has something to do with the different types of machine language or something. I'm pretty green with all of this. And our mill, :silly: holy crap what a contraption. It's just hacked together feed motors, PC unit, etc. although it is pretty accurate.

We do the piece work like you said, too. I have a perfect example that I'll try to get pics of tomorrow. A one-piece cast aluminum seat and back that we had to prototype in two pieces, with the seat part being a two-stage mill process due to the Y travel. I'll take a jpeg shot of the SolidWorks file to show the drawing, then post some real world photos of the parts being machined, since it is a pretty darn interesting process. Too bad I work for in a mundane industry. Too bad we don't build bombs or jets or dirtbikes or race cars or something really cool!

And yeah, I had me some daydreams about makin' moto parts on our new stereolith machine! :laugh:
 
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BillyWho

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#9
Hey that's alright, I don't know what I'm doing either :laugh:. Every softwear has it's quirks I guess, I use Strim100 to design and write the tool path, then I have to IGS out the file and bring it in some magical program that doesn't exist ecxept on the black market if I want to grow it. To machine it's pretty seamless, but when you IGS out to bring the model in any other softwear to STL it, it chops it to bits, the same when you try and bring in models from other programs. It's a good thing we do everything in house or it would be a real party.
 

RM_guy

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#11
Lou, That looks pretty big to be an SLA part. You can build it in pieces and glue them together though. Although the materials have gotten better they still aren't as strong as a molded part. Are these parts strictly for show? or will they be sat in? If they are just for show you can always machine them out of Renshape. It is used by Industrial design houses to build models. It machines freely and has the characteristics of wood. You would still have to machine it but it could be much faster.

I export everything from ProE to STL for quick prototyping and have never had any problems. Most 3D modelers have STL conversion software.
 

biglou

#12
"Renfoam", that's what we're using now. Different colors denote different hardnesses. It took my 2hrs today to get the PC to take the code for the 4th of four passes on the seat support. Turns out, the Z plane somehow got labeled as "-0" and it couldn't comprehend that, so it tells me that the area I masked off to not machine wasn't a continuous loop. Grrrrrrrr.......


Here's our setup and the two parts to make up that piece in the previous post:

http://pages.sbcglobal.net/big_lou/_uimages/Chair1.JPG
http://pages.sbcglobal.net/big_lou/_uimages/Chair2.JPG
http://pages.sbcglobal.net/big_lou/_uimages/Chair3.JPG
http://pages.sbcglobal.net/big_lou/_uimages/Chair4.JPG