“Stratasys technology saves time, giving us the power to provide a quick answer to our customers’ problems. Now with Stratasys 3D printing, we can provide fast reactions to immediate needs.”
— Collin Wilkerson, Western Tool & Mold
The Perfect Complement
In-house prototyping enabled Western Tool & Mold to provide fast reactions to immediate needs.
The Fortus’ build tray size afforded Western Tool & Mold many part size options.
Hong Kong-based Western Tool & Mold specializes in engineering-grade tooling fabrication and injection molding, producing a wide range of products, including medical devices, drug containers and critical-use metal replacements. The company serves diverse industries, including aerospace, medicine, electronics and industrial services.
The need to provide its customers with new ways to meet urgent deadlines and make use of limited resources drove Western Tool & Mold to investigate 3D printing technology. Its customers often faced challenges in the manufacturing process. For example, an aerospace client urgently needed parts for an aircraft already on the assembly line. Only quick delivery could avoid the consequences associated with a delay.
Fast Reactions to Immediate Needs
Western Tool & Mold added advanced 3D printing capabilities with a Fortus 3D Production System, meaning its aerospace customer could manufacture the parts it needed on time. “Stratasys technology saves time, giving us the power to provide a quick answer to our customers’ problems,” said Collin Wilkerson, Managing Director of Western Tool & Mold. “We can provide fast reactions to immediate needs.”
Using the Fortus, Western Tool & Mold prints advanced functional prototypes in ULTEM 9085, a FDM thermoplastic that’s strong, lightweight, flame retardant, heat resistant up to 320°F (160°C), and that offers full flame, smoke and toxicity (FST) compliance with government regulations.
The system also allows Western Tool & Mold to test new products. “We can validate designs before they become a problem in the manufacturing process, making us more integrated with the client’s work flow and giving us the opportunity to value-add to our services.”
The new 3D production system also evens out workload on big projects, eliminating the need to suddenly hire staff. With 3D printing technology, the number of workers needed on the project is greatly reduced. “In traditional manufacturing, you have to deal with quick spikes in the need for resources, but Stratasys 3D printing smoothes the spikes out,” says Wilkerson. “Our clients can re-engineer resources to their greater benefit, resulting in a leaner manufacturing process, which includes a smaller workforce and less idle time.”
Fortus Hurdles Concerns
Western Tool & Mold had two concerns with 3D printing technology, both of which the Fortus overcame. First, the company wanted to make sure its customers would use the machine again and again instead of only for one-off jobs. “We are in the repeat manufacturing industry, so we wanted to make sure that 3D printing could fit into a sustainable business model,” Wilkerson said. “We were looking for a manufacturing process that could be integrated into the scope of service for our customers.”
The 3D printer proved popular with Western Tool & Mold’s clients, with 100 percent of the customers returning to the company to manufacture parts using the Fortus 3D. “Our customers found that 3D printing saved them money,” said Wilkerson.
The Fortus’s performance also trumped Western Tool & Mold’s other concern: that FDM Technology might cut into its injection molding revenue. Instead, the Fortus 3D provides a new revenue stream. “FDM is not cutting income from our tooling and injection molding business,” said Wilkerson. “In fact, it frees up money for our customers to spend on tooling in the future. This enables us to become a better supplier. Stratasys 3D Printing extends and complements our manufacturing process, crossing over but not cannibalizing our income stream.”