QUERCETTI 3D MOULDS
Industrial 3D moulds for toy production
Optimisation of injection moulding processes for pre-series production of toys.
A 3D printing system compatible with existing plants that drastically reduces production times and costs.
The use of Digital ABS instead of traditional metal equipment has made it possible to create injection moulds for the pre-series production of Quercetti’s toys with a 95% saving on development time and costs. Created in collaboration with Stratasys, thanks to an innovative consulting approach, they are made using new materials and production technologies.
The innovations introduced by 3D printing make it possible to optimise and improve the efficiency of traditional manufacturing processes. The proof is the injection moulding system that Quercetti industries use for the pre-series production of their popular educational games. Let’s find out the details of this story.
QUERCETTI. PLAY SMART
Consciously far from the marketing logic of the big names in the toy industry, the Turin-based brand, famous throughout the world for its coloured “nails”, has always kept true to the values and mission of educational games. Quercetti does not follow the constant and aggressive update of its catalogue, as is the case in the entertainment industry, but it rather proposes durable models, whose purchase is determined by the parents’ responsible choice to educate their children. Openly inspired by the Montessori method, Quercetti’s educational games follow the STEAM scientific approach (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Maths) and have always been designed and produced entirely in Italy. Their quality is unanimously recognised both by the public and critics, as confirmed by the many awards and recognitions obtained throughout the world.
From a technical and technological point of view, Quercetti makes no compromise: its games are created to last forever. Every detail tangibly expresses the values that inspire it. Bold forms and intense colour contrasts follow a modular concept that stimulates the child’s creativity, who establishes a three-dimensional relationship with the toy. The quality of Quercetti is reflected in extreme care at every stage of product development. Pre-series production is no exception. This is the moment of truth that precedes the final production of the parts.
PRE-SERIES PRODUCTION: THE SOLUTION IS ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING
Pre-series production checks allow important corrections to be implemented even after the design stage, thanks to the possibility of reviewing all the critical points in the same conditions as in final production. Additive manufacturing introduced great flexibility in the process, making it very easy to apply changes. In other words, thanks to 3D printing, the pre-series can benefit from all the advantages of prototyping, with considerable savings in time and development costs.
In the case study, a traditional steel mould required 25 days to complete, at a cost of around 12,000 Euro. The same piece, made of plastic thanks to 3D printing, took only a few hours to be produced, at a cost of around 500 Euro. The numbers speak for themselves: the estimated savings is around 95%.
Under these encouraging assumptions, the challenge to overcome was to realise the theoretical advantages without losing performance, that is, creating elements that integrate perfectly into the injection moulding system currently used in the factory, the same one used for final production. As far as consultancy is concerned, the first step was to renounce doing in other ways what is already done conventionally. We should rather consider new materials and new approaches to the problem.
COLLABORATION WITH STRATASYS AND THE CHOICE OF DIGITAL ABS
After preliminary research, we decided to establish a technical collaboration with Stratasys, one of the most important manufacturers of 3D printing technologies in the world. This choice played a decisive role in the achievement of positive results. Together with Stratasys, we performed numerous tests to evaluate various materials in the operating conditions of injection moulding. Digital ABS was the chosen material, the perfect fit for Quercetti’s needs for its thermal and mechanical properties.
The moulds for pre-series production were made using the Polyjet technology of the Stratasys Connex3 Objet500 3D printer.
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF DISADVANTAGES: THE ROLE OF SKILLS
The question that many may ask is: if the advantages are so obvious, how is it possible that plastic moulds have not long been adopted on a large scale for pre-series productions? The answer comes from a thorough knowledge of the subject and is the result of a fruitful collaboration between the technicians of the producing company and the experts of additive manufacturing. It is necessary to evaluate each case separately.
As far as this case is concerned, a material such as Digital ABS, that is perfect for Quercetti’s needs, may be less suitable in other situations. Today, it is indeed hard to think of plastic moulds that can support the production of over 1000 pieces. Moreover, many precautions are necessary due to the limited thermal dispersion of this material, which makes the cooling phase complicated. These details make it unusable on a large scale, but it is perfect for a pre-series.
The key to the success of an innovative process lies in choosing the right technology and the most suitable material in all circumstances, after a careful analytical phase. The conscious use of 3D printing to optimise traditional processes makes it possible to satisfy a range of needs that are yet to be discovered, as it offers so many possibilities that were precluded with traditional methods.
The know-how acquired by companies while researching on additive manufacturing technologies is invaluable.