Embracing Change: The Würth Additive Group and the Evolution of 3D Printing in the Fastener Industry
The Würth Group stands proud as the world leader in the development, manufacturing, and distribution of assembly and fastening materials. With over 400 companies in our global group, operating in 80 countries and boasting more than 2,500 branches, we have firmly established ourselves in the fastening materials industry.
Among our vast family, the Würth Additive Group humbly contributes to the legacy by consistently exploring the technological frontier of industrial 3D printing and its applications in manufacturing. Being part of the larger Würth Group, we have been fortunate to gather valuable insights into the intricacies of the industry.
Among our dedicated professionals, Mason Fischer Paul, a sales engineer with a genuine passion for additive manufacturing, stands out. Recently, Mason generously shared his insights with Michelle Froese of Fastener Engineering, providing a glimpse into the transformative power of 3D printing in the fastener industry.
A Gentle Evolution of Additive Manufacturing
Additive manufacturing has changed a lot from its conception in the 1980s to its present state. 3D printing, initially a fairly low profile technology, has seen substantial evolution with the development of sophisticated printing methods and expanded capabilities. There was a lot of hype around the technology in 2013 and many companies have invested in 3D printing departments and programs. It is in finding high ROI applications where the frontier is being pushed.
The Würth Group, in the role of a supply-chain industry participant, has continuously welcomed innovation, from robotics to digital solutions. Following in this tradition, we at the Würth Additive Group are constantly pushing that technological boundary forward. We've explored automated technologies such as DLP (Digital Light Processing) for plastic fastener production, offering an alternative to conventional laser-based or FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) printing. We find that it is often the unexpected application, or use case, where a lot of continuous improvement is possible.
Synergizing New Technologies
When it comes to matching use cases with the right technology, our experiences in DLP technology are a fantastic example. The latest findings from our collaboration with our resin 3D printing partners enables fully automated functions, potentially revolutionizing the fastener industry with reduced production costs and higher volumes. Combining this with our knowledge in 3D printing and digital inventory solutions, we've strived to increase production capacity, decrease manual handling, and put user safety first.
Mason shared that our humble aim is to standardize production to ensure consistency, repeatability, and reduced variance, especially in critical sectors such as aerospace, automotive, and other industries that are at the speartip of innovation.
Promoting Collaboration and Innovation
With the recognition of the need for standards, we've joined hands with our partners like Rapid Shape and Henkel to set guidelines for certain plastic fasteners. This endeavor seeks to establish production part approval processes (PPAPs) to validate that a part has been printed to specification.
However, Mason clarified that we do not seek to compete with traditional manufacturing methods. Instead, we believe that additive manufacturing can meet specific needs, allowing traditional methods to focus on higher-volume parts.
Eyes on the Future
The journey towards fully embracing the potential of additive manufacturing is filled with challenges. Factors such as the type of fastener, project volume, and costs must be carefully weighed. But as Mason points out, 3D printing has expanded its scope from prototypes to final production pieces.
As the Würth Additive Group, we're honored to play a part in this evolution. We're committed to using the potential of additive manufacturing to optimize production and innovate for the future. As 3D printing continues to shape the fastener industry, we, too, will persist in our humble efforts to contribute to that future.