LIBERTY ACOUSTICS | Startup Management & Corporate Innovation 

Blog: Product design and Innovation – Rapid prototyping in 3D-Printing

(20.07.2018) We are manufacturers in smart home and smart entertainment, and at Liberty Acoustics our priority is to provide exclusive products to our customers in order to enhance their living experience in a sophisticated and luxurious way. The design-oriented control panels are made of high-quality materials and many of its important parts/modules are being developed using 3D-printing technology. The 3D-printing technology makes it easier to design prototypes by means of easy iterations of versions, and manufacture the products. It is an additive manufacturing technique used for modelling, prototyping and production applications.


Filament based 3D-Printing- Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)

FDM is filament-based 3D-printing wherein thermoplastic filaments are heated to its melting temperature and then extruded through a nozzle onto the platform of the printer as per the digital model supplied to the printer, the nozzle then moves to place the material again. The platform descends another layer until the model is printed. Usually, supporting material is required to support the model while printing because of the fact that the overhangs may collapse otherwise. The 3D printed products are mechanically strong and flexible but have a comparatively rough surface texture. Polishing, painting, smoothing (with acetone vapour) are some of the post-printing processes that could be used to obtain the desired finished products. The FDM printers are compatible with various materials like ABS, PLA, PET, PC, ASA, carbon fibre, and also composite filaments with wood, metals. The most commonly used materials for printing prototypes and end-user parts are ABS, PC etc as they can endure heat, mechanical and chemical stresses. The type of 3D printing technology defines the characteristics of the product being printed.

Other most commonly used 3D printing technologies for printing plastics are SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) - powder-based printing and SLA (Stereolithography) - resin based printing.

Powder based 3D-Printing- Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

The SLS 3D-printing technology uses plastic powder to print the final product. The printer is heated to just below the melting point of the plastic powder, then it spreads a fine layer of the powder on the platform and the laser heats the area to be sintered according to the digital model supplied to the printer, and it fuses the powder together. A fresh layer of powder is spread again by the printer, and the product is printed layer by layer. Unlike FDM, SLS does not need any supporting material, as the plastic powder itself acts as one. Thermoplastics such as nylon, polypropylene, polyamide, alumide are some most commonly used materials with this technology.

Resin based 3D-Printing- Stereolithography (SLA), Digital Light Processing (DLP)

Technologies such as SLA, DLP (Digital light processing) uses photosensitive liquid resins and the laser sweeps the surface of the liquid resins according to the digital model. The product is printed layer by layer and UV-post treatment is necessary to improve the strength of the product. The finished products are smooth, shiny and brittle. Also, this technology offers a surface finish comparatively better than FDM and SLS. Basically, the type of 3d printing technology and the materials we select characterizes the properties of the end product.

The 3D-printing technologies for printing plastic products helps us with fast initial conception, reduces process time and also the waste materials. In addition, 3D-printing technology will have far reaching benefits such as skilling the workforce and efficient inventory management. Although 3D Printing is a space commonly associated with plastics and metals, a plethora of applications can be found in several sectors like aeronautics, engineering, fashion design, education, healthcare, medical, biotechnology and fast-moving consumer goods over the past few years. It is one of the best options for small production runs, but as we get into larger quantities and move beyond the prototyping phase, plastic injection moulding or some other traditional manufacturing technologies make more sense.