3D printing replacing metal part production for workholding specialist
Brown & Holmes specialises in the design and manufacture of bespoke workholding, precision machining and sub-contract machining solutions.
During eight decades of business the Tamworth-based firm has built up a strong reputation for delivering quality, and today supplies to a wide range of end users and sub-contractors across the globe in industries such as automotive, aerospace, power generation, nuclear, construction and machine tooling.
Keen to continue to evolve its offering to customers, it identified 3D printing – through Stratasys UK platinum partner SYS Systems – as a technology that ticked the boxes for achieving the next-level manufacturing it was looking for.
It is now the proud owner of two machines, a Stratasys F170 and Fortus 450mc, and already can’t imagine life without them.
Brown & Holmes Engineering Manager Mick Waller said: “We saw SYS Systems at the TCT Show, spoke to them about the machines and once we looked into the company a bit further found they were a very professional outfit that we decided matched our level of business.
“The main reason for choosing the two different machines was to expand the possibility of different materials that we can use. There are over 17 materials we can print between the two machines.
“Joining at such a high level gave us a multitude of possibilities with different materials and different build sizes. The materials now that we can print has meant that we can adopt the newer carbon fibre-type material to replace metal parts in our production solutions.
“Anything our design team can model we can print on these machines, so it’s given us opportunities to be more experimental with designs and parts that we can manufacture.”
The F170 is part of the Stratasys F123 series, which combines powerful Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) technology with intuitive GrabCAD design-to-print software to provide the most versatile and intelligent prototyping solution available.
With superior accuracy, detail and repeatability, it lets users print everything from fast, low-cost concept models to durable assemblies, confirming its reputation as the fastest and most efficient way to get products to market.
An advanced 3D production system, the Fortus 450mc uses many of the engineering-grade and high-performance thermoplastics seen in traditional manufacturing processes to create precision parts incredibly quickly.
For jigs, fixtures, factory tooling, end-use parts or functional prototypes to withstand stringent testing, the Fortus 450mc does it all.
Mr Waller said: “With regard to our customer base they’re looking at us now for newer and different materials beyond the conventional.
“We bought the 3D-printing machines for our own use for manufacturing parts to put on our fixtures and solutions, but we’re quickly realising that we can offer the printing service as a separate entity to our core business.
“We’re hoping these machines become too busy and we grow our capacity to offer 3D-printed parts out to the market to new and existing customers.”
SYS Systems Sales Manager Rob Thompson said: “We work closely with our customers on production systems that perfectly match their needs, and then to ensure that they are getting the very best out of whichever solution we’ve identified together.
“Once a business discovers the benefits that 3D printing can deliver, they rarely look back. With the Fortus 450mc, for example, it is possible to produce bespoke tools and manufacturing aids much quicker than with traditional machining, using materials that are far lighter than metal but give nothing up in terms of strength and durability.
“We’re delighted to be working with such an innovative company as Brown & Holmes and look forward to helping their additive manufacturing operations flourish.”
Mr Waller added: “SYS was great while we were looking at the different technologies, then installing the machines and offering support since they have been up and running.
“They have helped us with all aspects, so I’d definitely recommend them.”
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