Produce ESD-Safe Tools More Quickly & Affordably with Additive Manufacturing

| The Essentium Team


Essentium Safe Tools Image

When it comes to producing small quantities of just about any tool used on the factory floor, additive manufacturing (AM) beats subtractive manufacturing hands down. This article reviews how Essentium’s High Speed Extrusion (HSE™) 3D Printing Platform, and Z Collection of ESD-safe materials can overcome the challenges to equipping your assembly lines and workers with the tools that minimize electrostatic discharge (ESD) events in your manufacturing environment. Essentially, how to produce ESD-Safe tools more quickly and affordably with additive manufacturing.

Subtractive Manufacturing: Less is More (Wasteful and Expensive)

CNC machines cut, rout, bore, mill, and otherwise fabricate solid blocks of material into a desired form. Computer controlled processes allow for the seamless production of identical parts and tools in one piece. Subtractive production methods are great for the volume production of standardized tools, but not so much when producing smaller quantities, customized tools, or jigs and fixtures with special qualities.

When it comes to producing tools with ESD-safe properties critical to electronics manufacturing applications, the pressures are multiplied.

Subtractive methods require long lead times to progress through multiple design iterations. Once the part is finalized, CAD drawings are used to create the file with instructions for precise, repeatable production at scale by an array of CNC machines.

The machines are expensive, require highly trained engineers and skilled operators, and are usually owned by third party tool makers. That means large quantities are needed to offset set-up costs and achieve a reasonable cost per part, and customers have little control over time or quality.

When creating ESD-safe tools, subtractive manufacturing presents even more challenges. Premium plastics like Delrin® or DuraStone™ infused with surface resistance properties for ESD-safe applications are costly, and subtractive manufacturing can be wasteful as chunks of expensive raw material are machined away. These materials can also contain high amounts of carbon which cause marking and marring issues.

On the other hand, injection molding requires the production of molds, another lengthy and expensive process that is not economically feasible for small quantities of specialized tools, and even less so for a niche market like ESD-safe tools.

Additive Manufacturing Rises to the Challenge

To produce ESD-Safe tools more quickly and affordably, all that is required is the use of polymers containing carbon additives to print tools with the desired level of surface resistivity. This offers an alternative means to quickly and affordably produce the ESD-safe tools, jigs, and fixtures needed by electronics manufacturers.

AM speeds the design and iteration process while reducing costs in several ways:

  • There’s no need to pay rush charges or wait weeks between rounds of molds — there are no molds. Scale a design to various sizes for production of entire toolsets without creating a single mold.
  • Engineers iterate and print the parts they need on demand — there are no minimums, no delays.
  • Customers pay only for the materials consumed — minimal waste with a maximum ROI.
  • Print one or one hundred for the same cost-per part — experiment with different materials and properties for only the cost of filament.

Essentium Brings ESD-Safe Tool Production to Your Factory Floor

While a few 3D printer manufacturers can lay claim to some of the advantages delivered by AM, only Essentium offers a complete ecosystem of ESD-safe filaments featuring carbon nanotube technology optimized for use with our family of High Speed Extrusion (HSE) 3D printers.

Essentium’s line of industrial-grade 3D printers include the HSE 180 3D Printing Platform and the dual-extrusion HSE 280i HT 3D Printer and HSE 240 HT 3D Printer. In-house AM allows engineers to quickly iterate new designs with complete control over form, fit, and function. Eliminate the need for molds and reduce turnaround of new tools from months to days. Replace lost, broken, or worn-out jigs and fixtures in a matter of hours. Print them on-demand with no minimums for only the cost of filament.

To produce ESD-safe tools, Essentium offers a portfolio of materials ranging from soft and flexible to rigid with the strength of steel, each infused with electrical dissipative properties required for electronics manufacturing environments.

The Essentium Z Collection of ESD-safe filaments is engineered with a discreet outer layer of carbon nanotubes encasing the core polymer. By using less carbon particles, Essentium Z Collection filaments cost less and achieve the desired surface resistivity results without compromising the properties of the core polymer. The nanotubes are bonded to the polymer, so tools printed with Essentium Z Collection filaments with not mark or mar the products they touch.

Unlike subtractive processes, AM eliminates issues regarding material sourcing in a particular size or shape. There is no need to carry an expensive inventory of thousands of different shaped pieces of raw material waiting for an ESD-safe application that fits. With just a handful of filament spools and SKU numbers, manufacturers have all the resources they need to print any ESD-safe tool in an infinite number of shapes and sizes.

Together, Essentium HSE 3D printers and Z Collection of ESD-safe materials enable fast, affordable production of the tools that keep electronics manufacturing plants humming.

For a deeper dive into how Essentium’s High Speed Extrusion technology and Z Collection of filaments can be used to produce the ESD-safe tools needed on your factory floor, download our white paper, Enabling ESD-Safe Electronics Production Through Additive Manufacturing.


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