Cobot tooling with carbon fibre

30 Jan 2019

Engineering capacity news posted by Andy Sandford

Injection moulding specialist Rutland Plastics is using tough carbon fibre filled Nylon to 3D print tooling for collaborative robots.

Rutland Plastics, which produces parts for industries such as medical, consumer goods and utilities, has recently sourced a Stratasys Fortus 380mc Carbon Fiber edition from SYS Systems, a UK platinum partner for Stratasys.

The East-Midlands-based business has employed in-house 3D printing since 2012, but its latest upgrade is allowing it to break new ground in collaborative robotics.

The carbon fibre filled material  is a light but incredibly tough engineering-grade thermoplastic, giving unparalleled strength for dependable functional prototyping, end-use parts and rugged tooling, often replacing low-volume metal parts.

Simon Grainger, Design and Project Engineering Manager at Rutland Plastics, said: “The Fortus 380CF is ideal as it can print 30% carbon filled Nylon, which is excellent for producing end-of-arm tooling because it’s strong and durable but also lightweight, meaning our robots can run faster and we can maximise payload.

“3D printing gives us greater design flexibility. It allows us to design end-of-arm tooling and jigs and fixtures for their specific purpose, and complexity doesn’t increase cost.”

Mr Grainger added: “This is our first introduction into carbon fibre printing and it’s become massively important to the way that we produce all of our jigs and fixtures, and especially end-of-arm tooling.

“Other benefits include being able to produce functional prototypes which allow us to check fit, function and cosmetics.

“We can incorporate features and mechanisms such as air channels, and we can also use GrabCAD software to pause prints so that we can stop and put components into the actual 3D-printed parts, such as magnets and sensors, and completely encase them.

“Up until now we’ve never been able to offer low-volume production parts, but the Fortus 380CF allows us to do this to bridge the gap from research and development to production.”

SYS Systems Sales Manager Rob Thompson said: “The Fortus range can create accurate, repeatable parts quicker than ever before, with many of the engineering-grade and high-performance thermoplastics used in traditional manufacturing processes.

“We’re delighted to have been able to tailor a specific 3D-printing solution for Rutland Plastics’ needs and look forward to seeing them build on their already considerable success.”