Replacing Traditionally Machined Parts with 3D Printing

Replacing Traditionally Machined Parts with 3D Printing

“Making short run production parts can be very expensive when using complex CNC machining and fabrication - 3D printing has allowed us to produce complex parts and one-offs much more cheaply than traditional methods.”

- International Submarine Engineering
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International Submarine Engineering has been able to replace traditionally machined parts on their newest Explorer class AUVs with 3D printed parts from Forge Labsreducing turnaround time on complex parts, lowering costs, and allowing more freedom of design.

ISE has been a world leader in the design and integration of autonomous and remotely operated robotic vehicles and terrestrial robotics since 1974. Their AUVs  are unmanned submarines that can be used to survey the ocean floor to study everything from underwater volcanoes to traces of oil deposits to continental shelves.

FDM Technology

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Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) was selected as the print technology for many of the end-use components. FDM is one of the most widely used 3D printing technologies, offering fast prints, competitive prices, and spacious build platforms - all of which make it excellent for large, end-use parts. We offer a wide range of production grade thermoplastics, making it possible to test real-world material properties.

LED Panel

A LED panel on the bottom of the AUV offered a unique design challenge. To accommodate the panel, it was necessary to drill out a very complex hole into the curved body of the submarine. Furthermore, the LED panel need to be placed very irregularly within the bracket - necessitating very complex geometry that would have been very expensive to CNC.

First, a 3d-printed template was printed to make it possible to easily trace out the shape.

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Next, the LED bracket was printed - fitting perfectly to the interior of the submarine, the bracket was used as its own drilling template.

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3d printing meant it was no more expensive to have the panel positioned at an angle than it would be if it was completely flat within the bracket. ASA was selected for excellent strength, UV-stable qualities, and neutral buoyancy.

Cost in FDM

$521

Traditional Cost

$3000 - 5000

Lead Time

2 Days

Traditional Lead Time

14 Days
The price for the part was reduced by 6-10x, and the lead time was reduced by 7x - a huge savings in both cost and turnaround time.

Obstacle Avoidance System

The AUV’s obstacle avoidance system was a perfect candidate for 3d printing - traditionally, manufacturing a bracket to match the compound-curve surface of the AUV demanded a hand-fabricated part. Not only did this make them expensive and difficult to produce, it meant that every part was unique, making them difficult to replace in the field.

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With 3d-printing, making a part that fit perfectly was no problem - the part was even used as it’s own drilling template. The design freedom offered by 3d printing also made it possible to make the part much more hydrodynamic at a very low cost. ASA was selected as the material, allowing the part to be both neutrally buoyant and UV-stable.

Cost in FDM

$400

Traditional Cost

$1000

Lead Time

2 Days

Traditional Lead Time

7 Days
The cost and lead time for the part were also substantially reduced.

Plane Extensions

The plane extensions of the Explorer-Class AUV’s had traditionally been made out of fibreglass - a complex, expensive process that involved multiple molded pieces that had to be glued together and then machined.

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With 3D printing, the part could be made in a single piece - reducing the turnaround time by several days, and reducing the cost of the part by 2/3rds. The part could also be made significantly lighter than before.  Printed out of ASA, the fin was then sanded and painted to match the smooth fibreglass shell of the AUV - a seamless fit.

Cost in FDM

$216

Traditional Cost

$1000 - 1500

Lead Time

2 Days

Traditional Lead Time

3-4 weeks

Due to the complexity of the part, the lead time was slashed from 3-4 weeks to just two days - a huge improvement.

Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)

  • Thermoplastics

    Real-world thermoplastics

  • Large Builds

    Large, complex parts in a single build

  • Rapid Turnaround

    Turnaround as fast as 1 day!

  • Strength

    Nylon & Ultem for ultra-strong parts

Mention discount code FDM-ISE to get 10% off your first order!