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How the rubber part design process is benefitting from 3D printing

04 March 2019

3D printing is increasingly used for rubber-like part prototyping. Unfortunately, due to process and material considerations, we’re still not able to 3D print actual rubber parts. However, recent advances in rubber-like polymeric materials, such as Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE’S), have provided new opportunities in this innovative area.

These materials are now increasingly used to realistically emulate elastomeric characteristics including features such as Shore A hardness values.

Faster, more efficient and lower cost development

Engineers from the Aerospace, Automotive, Medical, Industrial and a variety of other industries are realising the benefits of 3D printing to prototype their ideas and turn them into successful rubber parts. These benefits include:

• Finding and fixing problems earlier in the design process. 
• Carrying out visual evaluation, fit, function and refinement. 
• Speeding up the whole development process. 3D printed parts are available in days whereas prototype tooling takes up to 6 weeks with additional time required to mould parts. 
• Communicating ideas more effectively than a computer model by visualising critical details.
• Building confidence by producing fully functional prototypes to see how they look and perform before further investment in tooling.
• Reducing development costs. Traditional prototype tools for seals, gaskets and mouldings typically cost up to £1,000 and then parts cost in the 10’s of pounds each, depending on material type, whereas 3D printed parts are usually under £100 each.

Read the full article in the March issue of DPA

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