PrintCity accelerator programme

Jesu, Manufacturing Engineer at MSM, visited PrintCity Network to learn more about 3D printing and how it can be further used by MSM. The 2-day course included a deeper understanding of PrintCity and how they help SMEs, an insight into 3D printing and the various materials that can be printed and included printing of an arbitrary shaped hydroform press tool.

Currently at MSM, 3D printing is used to make laser fixtures, production aids and prototypes but we are looking to expand into 3D printing tools for sheet metal forming. This would be a major advantage as we would be able to print on demand in-house, thus reducing lead time and costs. 3D printing of tools would also be more environmentally friendly as it would reduce the need to constantly buy metal tooling. It also reduces metal waste and carbon emissions – an important benefit to help curb climate change. Around the world, the aerospace industry is developing 3D printing for similar reasons.

The material that was most appealing for MSM was nylon with continuous carbon fibre re-enforcement. We 3D printed a small hydroform tool using this material, it proved to have excellent structural properties and has the potential of handling the very high pressure that would be applied by our presses.

The course was also an eye opener as to the various materials that can be printed – from soft plastic PLA to stainless steel and inconel. This looks promising for the aerospace industry, as inconel, aluminium and titanium are the primary metals used in aircraft manufacture. If implemented properly, and with constant development, this can be a breakthrough for 3D printing and the industry.

In the future, with the current development of 3D printers, we can expect MSM to have multiple 3D printing machines, printing tools, fixtures and ultimately aircraft components. This will enable better efficiency, repeatability and reduce the carbon footprint of the company.