Manufacturers who play ball with additives continue to grow
Fast Radius recently partnered with sporting goods giant Rawlings and additive technology supplier Carbon to produce the new REV1X baseball glove.
The new glove uses an intricate lattice design in the little finger and thumb inserts. Taking advantage of digital carbon light synthesis (DLS) 3D printing, the mesh is lightweight and flexible without sacrificing protection or durability, representing a significant evolution in glove design.
The goal was not only to improve the defense of major league players on the field, but to ultimately give all baseball fans and players access to this significant improvement in equipment technology, John says. Nanry, Director of Manufacturing and Co-Founder of Fast Radius.
âAfter prototyping the REV1X mesh inserts using Carbon’s DLS process, Rawlings needed a way to adapt this complex part for mass production. Because speed was key to this project, Rawlings wanted to be able to quickly iterate new inserts based on real-time player feedback, âsays Nanry.
Rapid radiusNew sporting opportunities
Nanry told IndustryWeek that the success of the Rawlings project further demonstrates the possibilities that exist for additives in the sporting goods sector. âWe have already seen amazing results for foam replacement in applications such as football helmets, bicycle seats and shoes. In each of these cases, the additive improved the performance and safety of these products. We have also done work with rigid and flexible elastomers which could have major implications for sporting goods, âhe says.
Because HP’s multi-jet fusion does not require support structures, current technology opens the door to printing geometries that were not possible with previous additive elastomers. âFor example, TPA allows us to make an entire shoe in one print,â he says. âIt is not possible to print a shoe with a closed upper using a method that requires support structures, but HP MJF technology does not pose this limitation. “
However, the rapid development of the product was the star of this project. Fast Radius was able to work with the Rawlings team to iterate quickly by modifying the CAD files and testing the results. âWe were able to quickly develop and unlock new ideas, ideas that we wouldn’t have had time to explore without the use of AM,â says Nanry.
Of course, scaling wasn’t as straightforward as printing more inserts to meet Rawlings’ needs, especially because FPU can be difficult to post-process, Nanry explains. âOur team had to compose the printing process and develop custom post-processing methods to meet the tight tolerances required for truss structures,â he says. âNetworks like these are difficult to measure, we also had to find new ways to qualify these parts to ensure repeatability. Ultimately, our efforts throughout the production process improved part yield by more than 4 times compared to the initial tests we performed with Rawlings. “
Extension of applications for additives
Fast Radius also recently worked with Aptiv and Ford Motor Co. to produce a suppressor cap to shut off all electronics on Ford’s F350 pickup truck for customers who didn’t want the tow package. When the project was launched, the additive was the choice for a number of reasons, the main one being economy. The estimated annual volume for these was around 20,000.
âAt that volume, the additive ended up being cheaper to produce than it would have been to produce a molded part. With electrical connectors in particular, tooling is very expensive because they are very small, precise and detailed parts. ,” he says.
The other main reason was the speed to market.In this case, the time from initial discussion to production qualification took 20 weeks, including various design iterations.
As the adoption of additives continues, the material qualification process remains a major obstacle. âThese large OEMs have a set of qualified, ready-to-use materials, and there is a fixed cost to qualify the material. The part was the first created by an external supplier using additive manufacturing to qualify a part through the PPAP process. The PPAP process has a reputation for being very demanding and very rigorous, âhe says. “It was a great opportunity to work collaboratively to understand how a production oriented qualification process could apply to the additive.”
Continuous growth opportunities
With supply chain disruptions and increased appetite for relocation, Fast Radius has seen a growing interest in additive processes and companies are bearing the full cost of supply chain risk.
âIt can be a challenge when companies are focused on getting the part price as low as possible. While the additive may have a higher part price, when you consider fixed costs like tooling and shipping, companies can end up with a lower total cost. property using additives, âsays Nanry. âMore and more companies are deploying the next wave of R&D spending, leading to increased enthusiasm for qualifying new materials to create existing products. “