Adaptable Machines Meet More of Your Needs

What is an adaptable machine?

An adaptable machine is customizable with a design that adjusts to meet your needs. It can handle a variety of parts and product styles, eliminating the need for multiple machines. MJ Engineering can design an adaptable machine for you that can change the order of operations executed on a part without interrupting production. 

Why choose an adaptable machine from MJ Engineering?

Do you need a machine that can manage parts of different sizes, depending on the task required? Do you want to improve efficiency in your automated systems? If so, an adaptable machine is your best fit. Also known as flexible machining, configurable machines, adaptive machines, or adjustable—these machines not only handle a variety of production needs, they save time and effort. With no need for manual intervention to switch out parts, an adaptable machine can provide greater labor productivity. It also lowers the cost per unit produced and increases production rates because it runs more efficiently. 

Leverage MJ Engineering’s experience with adaptable machines

MJ Engineering has designed multiple adaptable machines, and we can design one for you. An example of an adjustable machine we recently created is a custom-designed oral syringe filling machine

A customer in the medical industry needed a more efficient way to fill different-sized oral syringes with liquid medications. The machine MJ Engineering developed is equipped with four, customizable grippers that can handle multiple syringe sizes (from 0.5 mL to 20 mL), and the machine is designed to fill syringes with liquids of varying viscosities at a volume as low as 0.1 mL. The machine also adjusts to fit bottles from 3 to 7.5 inches tall. The operator simply selects a pre-programmed “recipe,” which contains information about the size of the syringe and other settings, loads the bottles and syringes, and presses the foot switch to start. No other manual involvement is needed. 

Give an adaptable machine a try

Not only are our machines flexible, we are too. MJ Engineering works with you from the very beginning to discuss your machine needs, such as the range of parts, products, and sizes the machine is required to handle. We commit to creating a design adapted to your needs and budget. 

MJ Engineering Knows 3D Printing!

In addition to their fused deposition modeling (FDM) desktop 3D printer (see 3D Printer Series—Part 1), MJ Engineering also owns a stereolithography apparatus (SLA) desktop 3D printer. The SLA printer from formlabs is used to make parts for test fits and dry runs.

3D printing materials-SLA

The SLA printer uses photosensitive thermoset polymers in liquid form. An ultraviolet (UV) laser beam selectively hardens (cures) the polymer resin, layer-by-layer, through a process called photopolymerization, which creates strong unbreakable bonds. As the part is being built, the build platform rises, lifting the part upward, out of the resin bath.

Is an SLA printer worth it?

Although the FDM printer can make parts that are stronger and more durable, the SLA printer is ideal when high accuracy or a smooth surface finish is desired. The SLA printer excels at tight tolerances, to the tune of plus or minus one thousandth of an inch—10 times more precise than the FDM printer.

3D printing materials-FDM

MJ Engineering’s Markforged FDM desktop 3D printer builds parts using a black thermoplastic filament called “Onyx,” which is primarily used when parts are needed to check form, fit, and function. The Onyx plastic can be reinforced with different continuous fibers, depending on the intention for the part being printed. Some examples of fill materials used with Onyx are:

  • Fiberglass—basic, cost-effective reinforcement material
  • High strength, high temperature (HSHT) fiberglass—to maintain strength in high-temperature settings
  • Carbon fiber—to withstand fatigue and improves stiffness and strength
  • Kevlar—to endure high impact and high deflection applications

To add the reinforcement material, the 3D printer uses two different nozzles. One nozzle dispenses plastic (Onyx), while a second nozzle dispenses the reinforcement material in the locations specified by the software. Typically, the reinforcement material is internal to the part and is enclosed in plastic.

Putting parts together

If a part fits within the parameters of the printer’s build plate and height restrictions, it can be printed as one piece. Otherwise, it can be bolted or glued. For example, as a test for a machine MJ Engineering is working on, a part like the one pictured here can be printed out of Onyx on the FDM printer in two pieces and then superglued. Once the finalized design is determined, the printed part can be bolted to the actual machine. “We can make sure it works the way we want it to and there are no flukes,” says mechanical engineer JC Kraml, “before we send it to our machine shop and spend 100 times more.”

To discover more methods by which MJ Engineering is using 3D printing to improve its projects, parts, and processes, check out Part 3 of our 3D Printer Series.

MJ Engineering’s New 3D Printer Adds Value Every Day

When you design custom machines like MJ Engineering does, things don’t always go as planned. That’s OK. Their engineers are experts at solving problems and improvising when necessary. Nonetheless, making customer design changes partway into a project can cost weeks on the schedule and thousands of dollars in parts. To reduce such risks and be more responsive, MJ Engineering recently purchased a Markforged desktop 3D printer.

How it works

The fused deposition modeling (FDM) printer heats a thermoplastic filament to its melting point and extrudes it through a nozzle, layer by layer, to create a threedimensional object. Precisely following a design in a computer program, it can print production-ready parts that are strong, rigid, and durable.

Is having a 3D printer worth it?

“There are great benefits to using these,” says mechanical engineer JC Kraml, one of MJ Engineering’s resident experts at 3D printing. He praises their new printer for helping avoid project bottlenecks, saying, It’s fantastic at quick fixes and helping move projects along; it’s great to have for that purpose alone.

A few of the 3D printer’s many applications include:

  • Rapid prototyping
  • Concept modeling
  • Making replacement parts

Kraml recently used the printer to build a prototype part for a speaker installation jig. It enables us to fail faster,” he explains, meaning we can quickly solve problems that may arise during the design or assembly process. And we save time and money because we manufacture parts inhouse.

Before purchasing the FDM printer, MJ Engineering relied heavily on their machine shops to make parts. After getting the part, which would typically take weeks, there was still a chance it wouldn’t work, meaning more expense and more waiting.

Our new 3D printer allows us to respond rapidly,” says MJ Engineering President Richard Wand. “If a part doesn’t work, or it doesn’t fit the first time, we can tweak the design, reprint it, and have a new part in a matter of hours.”

Despite its advantages, the 3D printer is not going to replace MJ Engineering’s machine shops any time soon. Larger parts and parts that need to be made of metal will still be fabricated elsewhere, at least for now. In the long term, Wand says the new printer will be good for his company.

It will be good for MJ Engineering’s customers, too. In addition to printing prototype and production parts for their own projects, they can print parts for others who may not have enough need or know-how to make a permanent investment in a 3D printer.

Suffice it to say, MJ Engineering’s new FDM 3D printer adds value with every part it prints!