Dutch 3D service bureau, Visual First employs FDM Nylon 12CF carbon-filled thermoplastic to replace metal machine parts for its customer, The Chocolate Factory.  The ability to 3D print machinery replacement parts on-demand has significantly reduced machine downtime, ensuring production line continuity for the company.

Based in Rotterdam (Netherlands), The Chocolate Factory runs a network of packaging machines, with the company’s daily throughput relying on the smooth operation of a simple, yet very important, hook-shaped metal part that lifts wrapped bars onto a conveyer belt. The only thing is that, the part often malfunctions and requires replacement three times a month. However, since each replacement part is handmade, delivery can take over a month.

It is crucial that the packaging machine is always operational, especially during hectic periods such as Christmas,” explains Carl van de Rijzen, Business Owner at Visual First. Thanks to additive manufacturing, they can now manufacture customized replacement parts on-demand that can perform just as effectively as the metal machine parts.

We can 3D print and deliver production parts to The Chocolate Factory in under a week, which is vital to ensuring manufacturing line continuity.

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When 3D printed, carbon-filled thermoplastic can replace metal

FDM Nylon 12CF composite material is a carbon-filled thermoplastic that contains 35% chopped carbon-fiber. Manufactured with the Stratasys Fortus 450mc Production 3D Printer, the replacement machine part is now used at the plant.

Before the use of this composite material, constant human intervention implied that the functionality of the metal part suffered and the machine was often damaged. “Now, with the ability to optimize the design of the part with the Fortus 450mc, this has improved due to the part being much lighter than its metal counterpart,” continues van de Rijzen. “The Chocolate Factory is also enjoying significant economic benefits too, with the team reporting a 60% cost reduction on the part.”

The Chocolate Factory is now turning to Visual First to solve other design challenges – most notably, to develop a prototype casting mold to test acceptance of its products. Traditionally this is made from plastic, which is both time consuming and expensive. Aware of the potential of 3D printing, they will 3D printed molds produced on the Fortus 450mc and the company will be able to develop its production processes.

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