In just a matter of hours
We develop the specifications for design and functionality using 3D models created in the CAD program. Things go fast from this point on. While someone used to have to spend around two weeks machining a plastic block – milling, drilling, turning, bonding and welding – this can now be done digitally in just a matter of hours. This is all thanks to additive processes such as laser sintering and 3D printing, which we have been using for around ten years now.
How does “additive” work? In laser sintering, the product material is applied to a platform in the form of a thin layer of powder. A laser beam melts the powder at points defined by the component’s CAD data, whereupon these points bond with those directly underneath. The platform is then lowered by the thickness of one layer and the process is repeated until the item is finished and removed from the powder bed. With 3D printing, on the other hand, liquid is applied instead of powder for product materials of different hardnesses. This liquid is hardened precisely using ultraviolet light in accordance with the design data and joined together layer by layer until the component is “printed”.
Quicker on the market
The prototypes for the long-time testing of products that are subject to great stress, such as connecting pieces in piping systems, are still made using the original process and the original product materials. However, the benefits of additive techniques are enormous for other products and components with complex designs, such as flush valves, traps and WC seats. A significantly larger number of versions can be made and tested, for example, and the development period can also be reduced by up to 20 per cent.
There is still room for improvement when it comes to the production speed of additive techniques, and the choice of usable product materials is also extremely limited in the plastics sector. What is certain is that this situation will improve considerably over the next ten years, by which time this technology will also be an interesting solution for the manufacture of certain end products. Geberit is ready.