3D printing supports faster turnaround times and improved quality at ThermoFab

For more than 40 years, ThermoFab, headquartered in Shirley, Massachusetts, USA, has delivered high-quality thermoforming services to clients across the world. Key to the company’s ongoing success are fast turnaround times, quality products and service, together with continued research and development. Specifically, ThermoFab provides heavy gauge thermoforming of custom plastic enclosures for many well-known brands in the medical, computer and various industrial sectors, including BioTek, Cisco, L3, Locus Robotics, MAKO Surgical, Starry, TransMedics and many more.

Unsurprisingly, ThermoFab is an advocate of 3D printing as a tool for supporting its business operations. Recently the company has revealed that it is using Rize’s unique augmented polymer deposition (APD) 3D printing platform to support delivery of ThermoFab’s unmatched turnaround times for its high-quality thermoformed products and services. The company’s president, Tom King, went on the record with Rize, stating that he observed the 3D printing industry for a year, during which time he carefully evaluated a number of 3D printers, including the Rize One. Indeed, King believes in leading and not following and it is this philosophy that drove his interest in the Rize One. ThermoFab decided to go with the Rize One due to its unique ease and speed of support removal without solvents for the 3D printed parts once off the machine.

ThermoFab’s turnaround times for its custom plastic enclosures are quoted as four to six weeks for low and medium volumes, which is currently unparalleled (along with enclosure quality and accuracy) across the industry, according to the company.

ThermoFab’s engineers predictably and innovatively use the Rize One, the first generation of Rize’s hardware offering based on the APD process, to produce prototypes of small thermoformed parts, such as faceplates, faceplate backings, housings and more for form, fit and function testing before manufacturing the final product.

However, prototyping is not the full story. ThermoFab also uses their Rize One 3D printer to produce fixtures for setting up production rather than using blocks of CNC machined aluminum. ‘We produce low-volumes of high-end equipment, producing 5-10 or up to 100s of parts per month and they have to be right,’ King explained. ‘Producing aluminum blocks took longer than 3D printing.’

Using Rize One instead of CNC machining to manufacture fixtures is speeding Thermofab’s process, at lower cost. Moreover, 3D printing saves time by eliminating tooling errors.

Rize 3D printing is also reducing errors before expensive tooling is cut. In one case, for example, a 3D CAD model of a very large part was created from a 2D drawing, scaled-down and 3D printed prior to cutting the tooling. Printing the part exposed a curve in the design that could not previously be detected in the actual part, averting a costly error.

King concluded: ‘We’re happy with every fixture we’ve made.’

Always innovating, ThermoFab also produces experimental parts on their Rize One 3D printer, testing the possibilities to continue to improve their process and expand their services. For example, they plan to use Rize 3D printing technology to manufacture tooling. According to King: ‘The more you play, the more you learn and the more you learn, the better you get at it.’