Three-D printing has ever-increasing uses throughout the modern economy. Fields ranging from aerospace and automotive to medical and energy and many others make
effective use of 3-D printing to address a variety of needs. Shorter production timelines, reduced extraneous use of materials, more control over designs and increased resilience in supply chains are just a few of the reasons why 3-D printing of metal parts has grown so popular.
As more companies explore and adopt this powerful technology, attention turns to the most efficient and cost-effective methods of completing the work and moving parts along the production line. Just as a shift from traditional manufacturing to 3-D printing provides advantages, additional advantages can be garnered by increasing the efficiency of the process in-house. Maximizing the benefits of 3-D printing means a competitive advantage through cost and time savings for a business.
One process change that can yield a variety of benefits for companies that regularly use 3-D printing for metal parts is a shift from using electrical discharge machining (EDM) to using bandsaws for removing the printed parts from the base plates. While the specifics can change from one application to the next, bandsaws provide proven and substantial improvements over EDM. In general, Behringer Saws customers have seen removal times drop by roughly 90 percent when using bandsaws compared to EDM. And there are many more positives that can result from this change.
Bandsaws are quite adept at separating 3-D printed metal parts from their base plate. A wide range of ferrous and non-ferrous metals and alloys can be efficiently removed from base plates through the use of a bandsaw. Steel, Inconel and aluminum are just a few examples of the many materials in use when Behringer’s customers have implemented bandsaws and realized success.
EDM promotes efficiency in terms of the amount of material it removes, requiring a minimum of excess material to separate the base plate and part. However, there are few additional advantages to be seen beyond this one area for EDM when compared to high-quality bandsaws designed for this specific purpose.
With a bandsaw, 3-D printed metal parts can be removed from their base plates four to five times faster than with EDM, regardless of the specific part design or the material used. Even with a modest amount of additional time required in the 3-D printer to add the necessary extra material, that’s an undeniable improvement. It also means fewer base plates are needed even as production increases. One bandsaw can service multiple printers, as opposed to a ratio that can approach 1:1 with EDM machines, which significantly reduces capital expenditure.
The lower capital and operating costs of bandsaws become even more valuable as production using 3-D printing increases. Bandsaws provide a simple path to sustained savings, offering economical operations without a decrease in the quality of the cut or any other key performance metric.
The user experience
While circumstances and applications can differ from one business to the next, the advantages of a bandsaw versus EDM are broadly applicable. In one case, the customer carefully reviewed the financial and operational results of using bandsaws to remove 3-D printed metal parts from base plates, and the results were impressive to say the least.
The customer found that, after analyzing the costs and savings of the change, the benefits realized through the purchase of a bandsaw – the lowered costs and related increases in efficiency – would pay for that new piece of equipment in about four months. And, as time goes on, having a bandsaw in place means a significant overall reduction in the number of machines required as demand and 3-D printing output increases.
More specific details on the change:
- Capital investment: The cost of initially purchasing the bandsaw was only 40 percent the price of an equivalently sized EDM machine. This meant hundreds of thousands of dollars in initial savings.
- Consumables cost per cut: For the bandsaw, consumables usage was about 25 percent of what had been measured previously when using EDM. These savings equate to roughly $75 per plate.
- Cut time: Sawing cut time dropped precipitously to 10 percent of what would be needed for EDM. Instead of requiring nine hours for part removal, parts could now be removed from their base plates in about 50 min.
- Material offset: Using a bandsaw instead of EDM required additional material on the base plate, creating an additional cost. However, the many opportunities for savings meant this one increase was far outpaced by the sum of the benefits.
- Annualized savings: Taking all costs and savings into account, the customer determined it saved $190 per plate, per use. In year one, annualized savings reached $320,000 with 1,600 plates processed.
A switch from EDM to bandsaws for removing 3-D printed metal parts is straightforward. The benefits will appear as soon as a bandsaw is purchased, thanks to significantly
lower capital investment costs compared to EDM. Because the hourly costs of operating an EDM machine are significantly higher than that of a bandsaw, ongoing savings can be realized within the first day of operation.
It is simple to install a bandsaw, taking only a few days. And these high-performing tools don’t require significant investment in training for operators. The necessary education is usually completed in just a day. That means bandsaws can quickly be put to use and start generating the time and cost savings that are so central to their value.
With bandsaws capable of servicing multiple 3-D printers due to their superior cutting speed, the production floor doesn’t have to accommodate as many pieces of machinery as it would with EDM. As time goes on, there are fewer pieces of equipment to acquire, service and, eventually, replace, which is another avenue to keeping operational costs low. More space makes it easier to keep production moving along smoothly and keeps valuable square footage free for the addition of other types of tools and equipment.
Benefits that can be expected when a business puts its new bandsaw to use are:
- Reduced cutting time: Cut parts quickly flow off of the bandsaw, allowing it to take on the next piece of work on a reduced timetable while moving cut parts down the production line more efficiently.
- Fewer base plates in rotation: A business doesn’t need to maintain a large stock of base plates, due to faster cutting times.
- Lowered hourly operating costs: EDM machines require more energy than bandsaws and wire consumption is an additional budget item. With a bandsaw, each hour of service provided comes at a reduced price tag.
- Decreased need for multiple machines: Because bandsaws have the capability to replace several EDM machines at once, the savings go far beyond a 1:1 replacement. Bandsaws can take on the work of several EDM machines while still operating at a lower cost per hour.
High-quality bandsaws provide undeniable cost savings when it comes to separating 3-D printed metal parts from base plates. But what makes a specific bandsaw a good fit for this specialized purpose?
Advanced bandsaw technology allows for the exacting tolerances needed for efficient and economical removal of parts from the base plate. It’s important to note that not just any bandsaw can reliably operate in such an exacting set of conditions. A high-quality machine is simply vital for making exceptionally accurate cuts extremely close to the face of the plate, which minimizes material loss and keeps associated costs manageable.
Blade squareness – the ability of a blade to track square and true – is foundational in this regard. A heavy-duty, rigid machine allows for high blade tension that enables this key quality, as common requirements for blade tension in terms of straightness fall between 35,000 and 40,000 psi. Behringer has crafted machines that can achieve this crucial measure.
Behringer’s heavy-duty design bandsaws support the head of the machine rigidly, enabling greater blade tension and beam strength. Additionally, Behringer utilizes a ballscrew, servo-driven feed as opposed to the more common approach of a hydraulic method. This means enhanced rigidity, blade tension and vibration dampening characteristics along with an elimination of blade deflection.
Bandsaws are functionally simple and proven to provide key benefits for removing 3-D printed parts. EDM, meanwhile, provides equivalent outcomes in terms of cut quality but at a higher cost and with more complicated operational needs. Businesses that want to optimize their operations, from both a cost and throughput perspective, have a clear choice.