Testimonial - Bolt Pro - VDS Culemborg
High quality furniture design
VDS Culemborg is a furniture manufacturer in Culemborg, the Netherlands. They excel in the use of steel in their products. They design and manufacture mostly tables and chairs and work on private projects as well as office furniture. We were able to talk to Meil Pannekoek, to learn more on their take on, and use of, 3D printing.
Combining high level welding with high tech
Their production line is impressive. They have a large crew of experienced welders and combine this with high technology machine like 5 axis robotic arms. To continue improving their process and meeting the demands of their customers, they expanded their factory with a 3D printer: the Bolt Pro.
Using 3D printing in a steel environment
Since they primarily work with steel, a 3D printer doesn’t seem like an obvious match. But they have found multiple uses of this machine which translated in a return of investment within two months; Prototyping, tooling, fixtures and small serie production.
3D printing vs CNC milling
VDS used to prototype their parts directly with CNC milled parts. Being in close relations to a CNC miller, allowed them to mill parts for low costs within a reasonable time. The low costs they were able to get for a CNC milled part, were comparable to a 3D printed counter-part, told Meil. But 3D printing gave other benefits that made 3D printing more interesting that CNC milling.
Time is money
The benefits of 3D printing compared to CNC milling is the control it offers and reduction in lead-times for a part. Being able to 3D print in-house reduced their lead-time for prototyping with multiple days to sometimes more than a week. This allowed them to more quickly improve their design and get feedback from their client. The result was a shorter lead time, which means finishing project faster while maintaining a high quality product.
Control your own production
Being able to 3D print prototypes in-house also meant a high amount of control on your workflow. So the time it normally takes to prepare files, brief your external producer and shipment, were all eliminated. This also meant that the feedback loop while designing was shorter and more direct.
Tooling with 3D printing
Production of large quantities of products often means a repetitive workflow. Any fixture or tool which can speed up a certain production step means an increase in production speed. It also allows a more consistent outcome, which translates to a higher quality of product.
VDS has a lot of different types of products and different series which they manufacture. Creating unique tools using conventional products to speed up the production process would almost be counter-productive. But with the use of 3D printing, collars, mounting appliances or clearance tools can easily and quickly be created.
Increase flexibility with unique fixtures
VDS Culemborg is also one of the few fully certified testers of furniture. This allows them to completely fulfill any wishes of their clients while creating safe and regulated products. They have a lab setup with multiple tests where they can check the quality of design. And of course, they also were pushing the boundaries of their work here, so they were in need of additional fixtures, to better control their test.
The versatility of Flex Filament
One surprising fixture they showed us was a camera mount for a aluminium extrusion profile frame. The model is what you would expect from a part like this, but they made the part from Flex filament instead of PLA. Printed with a high infill, the result was a far more durable part the a rigid, hard plastic part. Additionally, it also provided more grip when ‘snapped on’ the rail as well as more grip when fastened using bolts. This is an excellent example of using the freedom of infill amount to your advantage with flexible filament.
Small serie production with the Bolt Pro
Using 3D printing for production is not commonly used, which makes sense. Most production amounts are within thousands of pieces, and a 3D printer is just not equipped to produce such large quantities. But small serie production is what some printers are capable of. The Bolt Pro can turn into a small serie capable production machine using Sync mode. By splitting both print heads, the Bolt Pro can increase the production speed two fold.
This method was used on the production of small parts like the caps found on the bottom of your chair leg for example.
The benefit of 3D printing
3D printing is still a relatively new technology and this means that using this to your benefit, means thinking outside of the box. When 3D printing entered the market a while ago, it was pictured as a machine which was able to produce anything you wanted to. Although 3D printing does have its limitations, working within these boundaries can still offer many benefits.
VDS was able to fully use their machine to their benefit and was even able to surprise us with their combination of parts and materials and using the amount of infill to their benefit. It proofs us that 3D printing can have a place in any production organisation, as long as you are willing to step out of the way things are usually done, and venture into the new domain, of how things can be done better.
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