UK automotive manufacturing firm Dunlop Systems and Components has integrated Markforged’s 3D printing technology into its business to produce custom tooling.
The company is projecting savings of up to £40,000 a year as a result of the move which has seen them bring in-house the manufacturing of internal and customer tools which in the past have been outsourced. Dunlop would typically have to wait up to three weeks for tooling components to be delivered and further delays would often arise when customers requested changes to the parts.
Having installed machines from Markforged’s Composite Desktop Series, Dunlop is now printing tooling parts in under two days, is replacing existing components on the shop floor and exploring new avenues too.
Among Dunlop’s main products are air suspensions used by trains and heavy machinery. During the hydraulic crimping for these parts, Dunlop would typically use a Nylon fixture to hold components in place, but found the tooling tended to warp during the warmer periods of the year. This fixture has now been replaced with a 3D printed tool made with Markforged’s Onyx material. Dunlop is also currently leveraging its new 3D printing capabilities to print custom tooling for a beta electric vehicle. With one prototype tooling part in particular, Dunlop is printing at a cost of £15 a piece, rather than the £500 it used to require for fabrication.
Dunlop says the integration of 3D printing has opened its mindset. There are now fewer customers and colleagues being turned away regarding tooling requests, and more being told to sit tight while the team work out how their request can be addressed with 3D printing. There is more time on the company’s hands and more money too. And there has been a shift in which department holds up the other as the tooling waits for its respective parts to arrive, rather than the other way around.
“Our department has almost got bragging rights because we can now say that we don’t hold up any programme,” said Mark Statham, Production and Engineering Manager, Dunlop Systems and Components. “If you want something done, we can now print it within a couple of days so we’re not holding anyone up.
“There are parts we would not have even thought about doing and there’s parts that we would not have been able to afford to do. We never say, ‘no we can’t do it’, it’s like, ‘yes we can. Just give us a bit of time and we’ll think about how we can print it.’”