FTM 117: 3D Printing

Fastener Training Minute 117

This edition of the Fastener Training Minute with Carmen Vertullo was originally published June 15, 2017 as “3D Printing” during episode 117 of Fully Threaded Radio.

Hi everybody, this is Carmen Vertullo, and I’m coming to you fresh back from Fastener Tech in Chicago where one of my clients Parker Fasteners, who I’m sure you’re all familiar with, and I had an exhibit with a 3D printer. We were printing fasteners. Now for a lot of people that’s confusing, especially coming from me, because you probably heard me say that in our lifetime, we will not be replacing our traditional fastener manufacturing processes with 3D printing. Maybe never but certainly not in our lifetime.

I stand by that opinion and but that doesn’t mean that 3D printing doesn’t have an important role a play and a profitable role to play for fastener manufacturers, suppliers, and end users and when we return I’ll tell you what that role is.

So at the recent Fastener Tech show, we had a 3D printer and we were printing plastic fasteners. We weren’t printing plastic Fasteners because we wanted a fastener that was made out of plastic, we were printing plastic fasteners because for the most part that’s pretty much what most 3D printers that are affordable can do. There are 3D printers of course that can print metal Parts. There are even 3D printers that can print metal parts that are substantially strong, though not as strong as we would get from a heat-treated alloy steel, or even a heat-treated 17-4 pH type part, but those metals are printable.

The machines that print them are very expensive. The cost of the printed part is very expensive. So for all intents and purposes, we will not see any time soon a mass-produced printed fastener that has the strength of standard traditional cold headed or even hot-headed and heat treated high-strength fasteners. And the speed of 3D printing is nowhere near what we would get from a cold header or even a machine or hot-headed part. So those are the things that in terms of a competitive advantage we always are going to have with fastener manufacturing. Cold heading, roll threading is incredibly fast. We get pretty much the maximum strength we can get out of the material through that process, between the cold forming if it were to be stainless steel, or the heat treating if it were to be alloy steel.

So what good is 3D printing for us in the Fastener industry? If not mass-producing fasteners, well, it’s most valuable role is to produce a semi-functional prototype that we can hold in our hands and screw into the part that it goes into, and see how it works before we invest in what it takes to actually make the part. Now a good 3D printer can print a fairly accurate fastener. We can print fasteners with our printer with threads on them that will gauge and that will screw together. We can also print some fasteners that are impregnated with metal. So they sort of look like metal and they feel like metal though the strength is not there, Some metal printers are printing fasteners that are about as strong as bar stock that is non heat-treated metal, but they take some post-processing.

So we can print metal, we can print functional metal, but we can’t print metal that is high strength such as a grade 8 bolt, which is 150 KSI, or a small socket head cap screw made out of alloy steel at 180 KSI in the inch world or the 12.9 1200 megapascal metric product.

I want to share something with you. Here at the Carver FACT Center in partnership with one of our on-call clients Parker Fasteners, we are printing 3D parts for our customers. That’s one of the great services that any supplier can do is to provide their customer with a functional prototype that they can hold in their hands and look at and install before they invest in what it takes to make a part and then come back and say we don’t like some feature about it. So let’s start over. So it’s a money-saving way to get a part in your hands very quickly.

At the Carver FACT Center in the month of August, we will be holding a program on fastener drawings and prints. How to make fastener print from an engineering perspective and 3D printing. So be looking for that.

Hopefully we’ll talk more about that on Fully Threaded Radio sometime in the future.

So to summarize: 3D printing has a very powerful role to play in the fastener industry at the current time. It’s not going to replace anything that we are doing in terms of cold heading, roll threading or machining mass-produced fasteners.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. This is Carmen Vertullo with the Fastener Training Minute. Thanks for listening.

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