When thinking about the use of 3D printers in a manufacturing environment, the first company that comes to mind is probably an engineering firm rather than a producer of high-end lingerie and swimwear. An impression that Anita Dr. Helbig, an innovative maker of bathing suits, sports bras, maternity wear and breast prostheses, is about to correct. The 125-year old company based in Bavaria in Southern Germany with the brands Anita and Rosa Faia is using a 3D printer for tooling and prototyping and has realized considerable time and cost savings.
“We are using 3D printing for the mold design and construction of our orthopedic products, specifically for our orthopedic prostheses in the Anita care line”, says Georg Weber-Unger, junior director of the company. Anita Dr. Helbig is running the X400 made by the German company RepRap and a 3mm filament made by RepRap as well. While the company has only one 3D printer at the moment, it is planning to employ a second model in the near future since it has expanded its use from tooling and mold design to prototyping as well.
The decision to use a 3D printer came because the costs and development time of the molds were high. The company used different molds for 10 different types of prosthetics in 100 different sizes. Now, the technicians scan the original aluminum mold and use CAD software to create a digital representation, which is mirrored and then prepared as a digital file for 3D printing. A few hours later, the tool is ready. We also use the scanner and printer for spare parts and packaging. “This translates into cost savings of about 50 %”, says Weber-Unger.
This is just one example of how innovative companies are using new printing technologies to improve production or save costs. If you know of a company that uses printing technology in a groundbreaking way, please let us know.