For a long time, we have been paying particular attention to the implications of 3D printing technologies in non-traditional sectors. The reason for that is that when 3D printing finds space in an unusual commercial activity it’s possible to fully understand its unexpressed potential.
The digitalization example offered by G.N.R., an Italian company operating in the field of analytical instrumentation, provides some interesting cues. The company has focused on 3D printing to improve its production cycle and solve various critical problems. Its first step into AM was with the purchase of an ABS printer, but it is only with the subsequent support of 3ntr and its solutions for additive manufacturing that G.N.R. has reached a turning point for its business.
The main activity of G.N.R. is the production of tools for the analysis of materials, mainly mass spectrometers and X-rays—an extremely specific field that requires high-performing equipment. To reach such a level of efficiency, the only solution is a continuous innovation and optimization process, both for the products and the business model. That’s why the company has gradually introduced 3D printing into its production cycle: to improve the production of specific components, reduce production costs and drastically lower the timing for go-to-market.
In particular, G.N.R. use additive manufacturing for the creation of support components for their products, such as supports for electronic and optical materials. Components that are usually made of metal through a traditional industrial processes are now effectively reproduced in plastic thanks to 3D printing—maintaining the same degree of resistance, but with significant savings in terms of time and costs.
The digitalization process of G.N.R. started in 2010, with the purchase of an ABS printer. This, however, did not turn out to be completely suited to the needs of the company, due to the closed nature of the system, only capable of using proprietary materials. This drove the company to explore new options, including a collaboration with 3ntr and the adoption of an A2, a versatile, large format printer (with a printing area of 620 x 355 x 500 mm) that is compatible with different types of industrial polymers.
“The collaboration with 3ntr started a few years ago from the need to build plastic parts, given that with other technologies they would have been too expensive or even not feasible,” explained Giovanni Gaia, Technical Designer of G.N.R. “The use of these systems has allowed us to significantly reduce production costs (even up to 7 times for a specific component) and to solve various problems related to our products, offering us an immediate solution that would otherwise not be possible with traditional processes.”
The particularly interesting aspect is that all the parts realized through 3D printing by G.N.R. are components of products that are put on the market. A concrete demonstration, therefore, of how this technology really manages to overcome design problems and costs that cannot be solved with traditional methods, thus making it a perfect tool to support and improve production.
“With the continuous decrease in machine and material costs, 3D printing will be increasingly used in production,” continued Giovanni Gaia. “In our specific case, it allowed us to significantly speed up the timing for go-to-market because if we first had to rely on external realities to compensate for some phases, now with these printers we can internalize some process steps, from production prototyping.”
The internalization of the product development phases has allowed G.N.R. to significantly increase productivity, with faster prototyping and marketing times—a crucial factor for companies. Being able to manage the prototyping phase in complete autonomy with 3ntr’s A2 has resulted in a condensed pre-production phase and a saving of economic resources. And these economic resources could be added to the additional savings deriving from the possibility of printing each piece needed with cheaper materials (plastic compared to metal) and, above all, without the need to create custom-made molds and then create the desired part.
The model implemented by G.N.R. can be of inspiration to other companies, but its history highlights an even more important aspect: the ability to choose the solution that best suits your business.
The current panorama of additive technologies offers a plethora of reliable and high quality solutions, but in order for these to turn into a real strategic advantage, it’s crucial to find the optimal solution for technology, costs and assistance service from the company that supplies the technological solution—and in this field 3ntr is gaining a position as an industry leader in the Italian market.