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 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 three–dimensional 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 in–house.”
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!