Product: SLA Printing
Industry: Electronics y Semiconductors
VAULT is a leading manufacturer of enclosures for tablets, offering highly configurable and customizable solutions. With over twenty years of experience in the point-of-sale (POS) industry, VAULT combines its industry knowledge with an agile design-to-production workflow to answer the growing need for quality-made, uniquely branded POS stands and enclosures.
A key technology within VAULT’s process is 3D Systems’ stereolithography (SLA): specifically, the ProJet® 7000 HD 3D printer. As project timelines at the company continue to shrink, the applications for this machine have expanded. VAULT is using its ProJet 7000 throughout pre-production for everything from proof of concept, to final concept, to mold and tooling set up, to packaging. One major reason for this is speed. “We absolutely love how fast it is,” says Quentin Forbes, VP Engineering at VAULT.
But speed isn’t the only thing. The transparency of Accura® ClearVue™ material improves communication, both between departments at VAULT, as well as with the end-customer. Additionally, the surface finish and accuracy of 3D Systems’ SLA prints enable them to inform tooling, increasing confidence in investment and accelerating timelines.
VAULT was given the opportunity to test its ProJet 7000 when approached by a multibillion-dollar customer with a big request and small timeline. With less than two months on the clock, VAULT needed to design, approve, mold, and produce a final, custom product. When sharing this recap out loud, Forbes said, “It doesn’t even sound possible.” And yet, VAULT delivered.
Fast and functional 3D prints accelerate customer buy-in
In mid-December, VAULT was charged with devising a fresh concept that needed to be finalized and delivered for a trade show in early February. The company got straight to work on design and 3D printed prototypes along the way. “The speed the ProJet 7000 allows us to work at is what made it possible to achieve what we did on this project,” says Forbes.
Right before the holiday break, VAULT’s team met with its customer with a fully functional 3D printed concept in hand. “They were blown away by the surface finish, the quality, and the overall level of work that we were able to show them based on a conversation we had had just 2 weeks earlier,” says Forbes. “And we didn’t do any post-op finishing on the prints either. They won over our client straight from the printer.”
Clear material facilitates design conversations
Another advantage of 3D Systems’ SLA is the available material selection. In particular, Forbes says VAULT has found AccuraClearVue, a clear resin, to be a major help in optimizing design. When customers want to add new features, VAULT will frequently print new components in clear, allowing everyone to have visibility into what is working and what is not. Prototypes in Accura ClearVue help deliver a full understanding of various mechanisms and space-claims to problem-solve for better outcomes.
“Customers don’t always understand how things will ultimately integrate and fit, so there’s a real utility and cool factor to being able to print in clear,” says Forbes. “When you can see through a part, there’s really no discussion, there’s just solutions and resolved questions.”
SLA prototypes accelerate mold manufacturing and packaging
Following a successful client presentation, VAULT secured approval to move forward. The company was able to have molds cut in time, to which Forbes was quick to add: “Don’t ask me how!” However, he did say that having 3D printed prototypes available was highly valuable at this stage as well. For final production, VAULT relied on two-ton molds for plastic injection molding as well as aluminum die casting. The 3D printed prototypes were sent to the mold manufacturers to facilitate communication and ensure everyone was on the same page for the desired outcome.
The 3D printed prototypes provided the mold manufacturers with a reference that assisted them in creating the molds faster, as well as accelerating the post-operation set ups, including a foil stamp. Forbes explained that the extreme thinness of the foil stamp and the accuracy required to place it correctly usually forces this step to be delayed until a production part can be used to assist with placement. In this case, the high accuracy of the SLA prototype made it possible to prepare this step ahead of time and not lose momentum.
“The speed and resolution we can achieve with the ProJet 7000 made it possible to get customer approval quickly, start development quickly, and reduce mold manufacturing time,” says Forbes. “We were also able to use the prototype as the basis of all our packaging design, and when the production parts were ready, they fit perfectly.”
Quick and effective training
Looking back on VAULT’s first solo experience operating its ProJet 7000 HD, it didn’t take long for the company to get up and running. In fact, Forbes says VAULT went straight from training on sample prints to a big project without hesitation. “We went from 0 to 100 miles per hour with the ProJet right away,” says Forbes. “To me it’s a testament to how well 3D Systems does training, and how reliable your printers are in building. We came out of our training session and printer installation and didn’t lose any time getting into very large and long prints, without any issues.”
Success that earns new business
At the end of VAULT’s two-month project window, the customer was able to launch its product as intended. “They are 110% behind this thing,” says Forbes. “It’s a great success story.” In fact, the project ran so successfully, VAULT is gearing up to do it again.
After witnessing the impact of high-quality SLA prints in sales meetings, VAULT’s business development manager Andrew Cagle says 3D Systems’ technology helps the company win new clients. According to Cagle, the work they do with the ProJet 7000 demonstrates that: “We’re industry experts, we’re leaders in this, and the technology we use is cutting edge.”