Stratasys A ‘Whale’ of a time with additive manufacturing

Editor: Eric Culp

Stratasys, one of the world’s leading suppliers of polymer 3D printing systems, says its technology played an integral role at a Northern Irish shop that was attempting to reduce its costs and lead times for tooling to make prototypes.

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A range of 3D-printed injection moulds for various industries produced at Whale.
A range of 3D-printed injection moulds for various industries produced at Whale.
(Source: Stratasys)

Whale, a leading manufacturer of water and heating systems for mobile applications based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, has slashed its lead times for the production of injection mould tools for prototype parts by up to 97% since introducing 3D printing into its tooling process, according to systems supplier Stratasys.

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The use of 3D printing has provided the shop with a very quick turnaround time, according to Jim Sargent, part of the 3D technical services department at Whale. The company can 3D-print injection mould tools in less than 24 hours using its Objet 350 Connex Multi-material 3D Printer. Making the moulds is said to come at a fraction of the cost of producing metal tools. “Traditionally, our lead times for metal tools were somewhere between four and five weeks and came with significant production costs,” Sargent said. “As a result, our R&D process was very time-consuming and fundamentally slowed down the launch of new products.”

He said that with the 3D printer, the company is able to design tools during the day, 3D-print them overnight and test them the next morning with a range of end-product materials. “The time and cost savings associated with this new tooling method are significant.”