Let me tell you an interesting story about how a Utah-based 3D print service called Merit3D landed the largest-ever 3D printing order from Adhesives Technology, a manufacturer of adhesive products in Florida.
So, here’s what happened.
Adhesives Technology had been using custom-designed, injection-molded plastic components to attach their products. These small hangers ensured that the mixing nozzles stayed connected to their epoxy cartridges during shipping and on store shelves. Unfortunately, Adhesives Technology faced a supply chain disruption when it ran out of these crucial hangers. It caused a major halt in their operations and delayed thousands of orders.
Revamp the parts for 3D printing
Now, injection moulding is typically done in various locations globally, and the most cost-effective suppliers are often in places prone to instability like earthquakes, virus outbreaks, embargoes, or sanctions. Reshoring the injection moulding process to the US is a lengthy and expensive endeavour.
To make matters worse, recreating the moulding tool for just one version of Adhesives Technology’s hanger would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The more complex the mold, the higher the tooling cost.
Then, something amazing happened.
One day, a connection at Adhesives Technology’s Utah office came across a social media post from Merit3D and reached out to them for help. Merit3D’s CEO, Spencer Loveless, saw an opportunity to assist. Initially, they thought of using 3D printing as a temporary solution until new injection molding tools could be created. But Loveless and his team took the initiative to evaluate and redesign the hanger over two weeks.
After a few iterations, they created a hanger that was more compact, lighter, and aesthetically pleasing while using less material.
The best part?
Merit3D’s Photocentric Liquid Crystal Magna resin 3D printers could print 400 hangers in a single run, which took less than four hours. This significantly reduced the cost, and Adhesives Technology found a temporary solution.
Impressed by the results, Adhesives Technology placed a substantial order that would last them several months.
Merit3D then presented them with another design iteration, which they called the universal hanger.his new design worked for two products that previously required different hangers.
By eliminating an additional hanger that needed to be injection molded,
shipped, stored, and applied, they saved more time and resources.
Could this order of one million be the first of many?
At the moment, Merit3D is using ten of their Photocentric printers to deliver 40,000 parts per week to Adhesives Technology.
They’re also collaborating with Photocentric and their raw material suppliers to find the perfect combination of properties and cost for a new 3D printing resin. This resin will enable them to create even thinner hangers with equal or better mechanical properties than the current ones.
it’s worth mentioning that 3D printing still faces challenges when it comes to competing with injection molding for mass production.
The cost of materials for 3D printing is higher compared to traditional plastics like ABS, polypropylene, nylons, and polycarbonate. The industry is constantly working on developing more affordable and diverse 3D printing resins.
Photocentric, the company behind Merit3D’s printers, aims to make additive manufacturing solutions industrial, scalable, and affordable. They offer an open-material platform, allowing users to collaborate with material manufacturers to develop custom resins.
Will Adhesives Technology eventually return to injection molding?
Perhaps, but there are economic and legislative forces encouraging US companies to invest in new technologies and reshore manufacturing.
Merit3D took advantage of state-level reshoring grants to reduce the cost of the project,
showcasing their commitment to supporting this movement.
This partnership between Adhesives Technology and Merit3D marks a significant step in the development of additive manufacturing as a viable alternative to injection molding.
The future is unpredictable, but Loveless and his team aim to add enough value to their product to convince Adhesives Technology that they don’t need to go back to injection molding.
And that’s the story of how Merit3D grabbed the largest-ever 3D printing order,
proving that innovative solutions and collaborations can make a big impact in the world of manufacturing.