Optimized Soft Touch Tooling with 3D Printed Urethane Blocks

Advanced AM technologies provide exceptional part quality and surface finish

Valiant TMS – a global company specializing in welding and joining, automated assembly and test, industrial parts washers, final assembly, and material handling systems – is producing Urethane Blocks using BASF Forward AM’s Ultracur3D® FL 300 resin in combination with the Stratasys Origin® One P3TM DLP printer.

Project Breakdown

Industry & Application

Ultracur3D® FL 300

Valiant TMS


Why Forward AM?

Material expertise ensured great results in finish quality while keeping low the manufacturing cost

Valiant TMS is a global company with over 1,500 employees working at 20 facilities spread throughout 11 countries. They design, build and integrate intelligent automation solutions that leverage new technologies to create smart and sustainable factories for the world’s leading companies.

Urethane Blocks (often called as Red Blocks) are components used in automated assembly lines for the automotive industry. These Urethane blocks have direct contact with the assembled product requiring a component with a 40-60 Shore A durometer that will avoid marking or scratching the final part during the manufacturing process. By utilizing our Ultracur3D® FL 300, Valiant TMS discovered new ways to replace poured Urethane by applying 3D printing technologies and applications to processes that require soft touch tooling.

The Challenge

For the Fender Install Tool application, the Urethane Blocks are used as a pusher against the product in order to engage this particular part with the tool during the manufacturing process.

Urethane Block areas (in blue) used in automated assembly lines, Source: Valiant TMS

Traditionally, these components are produced by pouring Urethane on top of a metal base, usually one of aluminum or steel. For this process, a mold is required followed by a deburring process after pouring the urethane. The metal base also needs to be tapped to allow the part to be attached in the final assembly.

The Solution

During a separate project, which was the development of the Leak Test Seals for batteries, Valiant TMS discovered an advanced material for the application as well as reliable and trusted technology to produce it. The goals were to reduce the steps in the manufacturing process, improve part quality and surface finish, optimize print time, reduce part cost and provide better lead time for the end product.

The Additive Manufacturing approach is different than traditional manufacturing methods due to the fact that both the components that form the Urethane Block are 3D printed using two different type of materials – one with a low durometer and one with high durometer. A Key Insert is added in the 3D printed base of the Urethane Block to allow the part to be attached in the final assembly.

By working together with Forward AM, Valiant TMS was able to utilize a best-in-class material. Using BASF Ultracur3D® FL 300 material to manufacture Urethane Blocks eliminates the need to create a mold for the pouring process. Ultracur3D® FL 300 is a well-balanced, reactive urethane photopolymer for flexible applications that delivers exceptional torsional flexibility with high tear strength. It provides very high softness (Shore 40 A), superior elongation at break, and consistent rebound.

The 3D printed Urethane Blocks were printed with Ultracur3D® FL 300 material while the base of the Urethane Block shown in the pictures below was 3D printed using Ultracur3D® ST 45 B. They are bonded together after curing process.

Urethane Blocks produced with Ultracur3D® FL 300, Source: Valiant TMS

The Result

Ultracur3D® FL 300 possesses a low viscosity and optimized parameters which ensure both fast printing and short lead time, which plays a big role in the development process for Valiant TMS. Using Additive Manufacturing, the print time is substantially lower than that of alternative manufacturing methods which resulted in lowering the cost by 200%. The table below illustrates the significant changes in the manufacturing time of parts printed with Ultracur3D® FL 300 when compared to alternative manufacturing methods assuming immediate availability of each technology.

Manufacturing time of Urethane Blocks, Source: Valiant TMS

Using Ultracur3D® FL 300 enabled Valiant TMS to eliminate the need for a mold or to create a special environment to safely pour the urethane, an additional step which is required when using alternative manufacturing. This innovative resin from Forward AM ensured that Valiant TMS also achieved exceptional quality results with a smooth surface finish on the final part. Because the accuracy of the part is within the requirements, secondary post-processing may be eliminated which results in a reduction of part production cost. Compared with alternative manufacturing urethane, Ultracur3D® FL 300 shows that it can be considered as a good replacement in this particular use case as well as in similar applications.

“It’s clear that the way we use additive manufacturing in our company draws the attention of the OEM’s and it shows that we have a story to tell in the AM industry. Working closely with partners like BASF Forward AM and Stratasys, we can create case studies that can provide other companies a recipe for success as they begin their AM journey. Our success leads to OEM’s success and eventually provides a better product to the market.”

Adrian Pop, Additive Manufacturing Leader at Valiant TMS

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