They are everywhere in our lives, and we subject them to stress thousands of times every year. They are the metal hinges of household appliances: very small components, yet fundamental to so many tools that contribute to making our lives more comfortable.
Nuova Star S.p.A. is a company that deals with the design and production of these components, also with the help of 3ntr’s additive manufacturing technologies.
In this article, we report the tale of Alessandro Bonora – Designer at Nuova Star – on how the company came into contact with 3ntr and how an A4V4 3D printer with three extruders revolutionised the production of prototypes and spare parts for production machinery, thanks to the use of polymers such as ABS, NYLON CARBON+, NYLON GLASS+.
Nuova Star: research and development, since 1967
NUOVA STAR S.P.A. was founded in 1967 with the mission to design, manufacture and market hinges for household appliances and associated small metal components.
Throughout its history, Nuova Star has developed an extensive catalogue of components dedicated to a wide variety of applications. The most advanced today are soft-close hinges for built-in and free-standing household appliances (e.g. ovens, washing machines, refrigerators, dishwashers). The company boasts more than 20 active patents and a constant commitment to the research and development department, where around 10% of all employees are involved.
As far as production is concerned, the drive towards automation, the use of robotic islands and Lean Production techniques have allowed Nuova Star to be highly competitive and, at the same time, to be able to guarantee a high standard of quality, using only materials of European origin.
3D printing in production: prototypes and spare parts
A company like Nuova Star, which is strongly focused on research and experimentation of new solutions, was looking for a solution that could solve some critical issues in the production department, Bonora explains :
«We wanted to speed up the product prototyping phase, and we needed a technology that, in a short time, would allow us to view, evaluate… touch a component, to make more informed choices, before moving on to the production phase.».
Additive manufacturing: from prototype to spare part
Additive manufacturing has not only proved to be a great advantage at the prototyping stage, but rather:
«We were looking for something that would also allow us to produce components and parts for some automatic machines, used for assembly, in-house. And 3D printing proved to be beyond our expectations.».
Many companies, with requirements similar to those of Nuova Star, have expressed these needs and, very often, recourse to traditional production systems (moulding, extrusion, milling) has proved too costly, both in terms of time and the time needed to get from the idea to the finished part. From this point of view, therefore, 3D printing is the more than ideal solution: a valid support, for prototyping and production departments, which can have access to spare parts and replacement components in a short time, realising them in-house, without depending on external suppliers and sometimes unsustainable prices and timescales.
From the meeting with 3ntr to 3D printing solutions
We asked Bonora to tell us whether additive manufacturing solutions were already known in Nuova Star before the meeting with 3ntr, and how the partnership has become a concrete positive impact on the company:
«In the past, I had already had the opportunity to work with 3D printers in a corporate environment,’ Bonora explains, ‘we were relying externally on services. Then, through an internal market research within the company, aimed at identifying 3D printers that could use materials suitable for our applications, I got in touch with 3ntr’s salesman active in Bologna, on a social network dedicated to business. We talked about our need – to make hinges for household appliances and hinges for dishwashers – and received all the information we needed.».
3D printing: speed, precision, reliability
What specifically were the critical issues, and how did a 3D printing partner like 3ntr manage to solve them?
«Our products are almost entirely composed of cold stamped sheet metal parts. What we were looking for was a system that would allow us to produce components that were as functional as the final parts, accurate, precise, to speed up the first sampling phases. The A4V4 3D printer turned out to be the most suitable machine, and the polymers chosen for their mechanical and physical performance are: ABS, NYLON CARBON+ and NYLON GLASS+ . The printer is used, mainly, for the production of components that are difficult to manufacture using chip removal machines and which, in any case, would require much more time. Being more timely in the production of parts for automatic machines was an important goal, and 3D printing helped us achieve it.».
In particular, Bonora told us which specific machining operations were carried out using a 3D printer:
- Sample parts
- Spare parts (for automatic production machines).
Additive manufacturing for industry
Cases like that of Nuova Star are testimonies of companies and entrepreneurial realities that find, in additive manufacturing technologies, a concrete response to changes in the economy and markets, increasingly projected towards globalisation and digitalisation.
In particular, an article in Industria Italiana writes:
«[…] additive manufacturing has gone from being a technology essentially dedicated to rapid prototyping to competing with traditional subtractive technologies in an increasingly wide range of applications. And it is not an ‘equal’ substitution: additive manufacturing brings a long list of advantages for companies that adopt it, provided that one is willing to ‘change one’s mindset’, because it involves reviewing from the ground up one’s way of thinking, designing and building products. […] Despite the pandemic, the additive market shows no slowdown. On the contrary, some peculiarities of the technology seem to be designed to overcome the problems posed by lockdowns and the difficulty of moving people and goods. […] On the numbers, there is an acceptable convergence between the various analysts, […] Arizton Advisory & Intelligence speaks of a market that will reach 29 billion dollars in 2025».
Those of change, growth and resilience seem to be recurring themes when it comes to companies that have chosen to bring 3D printing into their R&D and production departments. Even in the context in which our planet has found itself, after a pandemic and with the recent outbreak of conflict involving Ukraine and Russia. In a Sole24ore (italian newspaper) article dedicated to these issues, we read:
«In McKinsey’s latest report on the subject, an analysis carried out among a hundred or so multinationals, more than 90 per cent said they wanted to change their supply chain to make it more flexible and resilient. – And, again, on the subject of 3D printing – The breaking of long chains in any case offers a few more chances for the development of ‘distributed’ warehouses, widespread logistics can now rely for specific parts on 3D printing, where it is only a file that ‘travels’.».
3ntr: additive manufacturing partnerTo learn more about 3ntr, the partner for companies that choose industrial-grade 3D printing, we invite you to visit our site and, in particular, the section dedicated to our offer of 3D printers and professional accessories for the production of components and prototypes via additive manufacturing. To stay up-to-date on best practices and case studies on the use of our 3D printing solutions, follow our blog and our LinkedIn Business Page.
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