While prototyping using 3D printing has been a thing for many years, some companies are still discovering the incredible benefits of doing so.
One company that’s recently leveraged the ability of 3D printing to produce prototypes is Taiwan-based Shiruba, makers of the Power Aquarium line of water filters. These are aquarium water pumping systems that hang on the side of the tank to keep water clean and fish healthy. Shiruba is the largest manufacturer of hanging filters in Taiwan and markets their products worldwide.
Shiruba must constantly increase the quality of their filters and thus is always developing new versions. As always, this is done through iterative prototyping.
However, prototyping a filter of this type is a bit more challenging than typical projects due to the water flow channels involved in the part geometry. Creating filter prototypes using CNC milling is time consuming and uses material inefficiently, but this was the practice at Shiruba until recently.
Prototypes also have to function as a water filter during testing and this is made more complex due to the requirement for smooth water flow. An irregular surface inside the water channels could disrupt the flow so that measurements would not accurately reflect end-product specifications.
Shiruba turned to XYZprinting for assistance and ended up using their industrial SLS 3D printer, the MfgPro230 xS. For readers not familiar with XYZprinting’s full line you may be wondering about their industrial 3D printers.
XYZprinting launched into 3D printing several years ago, but began by marketing a series of inexpensive desktop units. The interest in these machines was such that the company grew to become one of the largest suppliers of 3D printers in the world. Because of that, many people associate XYZprinting with desktop equipment.
Today, that’s far from the entire story, as the company has in the past few years launched an incredible array of industrial machines, seemingly using every known 3D printing process. It’s possible they offer the most 3D printer models of any manufacturer today. Their industrial equipment includes machines using these processes:
For the aquarium filter project, Shiruba chose XYZprinting’s current SLS machine, the MfgPro230 xS. This device is capable of 3D printing finely detailed parts in a variety of thermoplastic powders in a 230 x 230 x 230 mm build envelope. Layer size can be as small as 0.08mm, and that’s an important feature.
It’s important because the prototypes produced by Shiruba were sufficiently smooth and accurate to properly represent the design. The company was able to test the prototypes by printing them in sPro12W, XYZprinting’s white nylon 12 material.
Shiruba CTO Hugon Lin said:
”Shiruba utilized XYZprinting’s MfgPro230 xS to produce parts with high quality and complex mechanical features required for our new aquarium filter. The MfgPro230 xS continuously provides a reliable, high quality 3D printing solution to increase the speed of developing and manufacturing our products.”
Shiruba found they were able to produce prototypes at a cost ten times lower than their previous method, and they were also able to reduce their proof of concept and engineering verification processes from a full month to only a single week. You can read the full details of this interesting project in their case study.
They now have the choice of either speeding up development or doing additional iteration to refine the product design to greater levels of quality.
With the increased quality and detail available on today’s 3D printers, there are far fewer reasons to continue using traditional methods when prototyping parts. Companies should consider stepping into 3D printing if they have not done so already, and XYZprinting’s equipment could be a great option.