Jdeal-Form: the 3D printing that springs from bra

Davide Ardizzoia, technical and R&D manager for the 3ntr brand

Davide Ardizzoia, technical and R&D manager for the 3ntr brand

3D printing solutions sometimes originate in the most original way. Like in the case of the producer of bra components Jdeal-Form that, fed up with turning outside for rapid prototyping, has in-house developed the most suitable 3D printer for its activity. So successful that now it is produced and sold in two versions with the 3ntr brand.

The ways of 3D printing are endless indeed. And it so happens that the origins of one of the most innovative producers of additive printers today available on the market in Italy date back even to the Fifties, when this technology was neither conceivable, yet. The story of Jdeal-Form is interesting, founded by da Josè Ardizzoia to produce bra components that range from underwires to separators, from hooks and eyes to rings and sliders.

The Oleggio company, Novara province, has always been in the forefront in the adoption of new technologies and one of the first making use of rapid prototyping for the manufacturing of engineering components and small mechanical parts, turning to outside services. In Jdeal-Form, anyway, they have always been used to designing, developing and manufacturing. And then, why not to adopt this procedure also for a 3D printer really suitable for their needs, so avoiding turning to an external service, with all the troubles that this can involve? They have so conceived two 3D medium- and big-size professional printers, so successful that Jdeal-Form has started marketing them with the 3ntr brand, soon becoming one of the international protagonists in this sector. We talked about that with Davide Ardizzoia, founder’s son and technical and R&D manager for the 3ntr brand.

«Our company – explains Davide Ardizzoia – has always been characterized by a constant technological upgrading and by a pioneering use of innovative technologies that have allowed us to survive in more and more competitive markets. The development of new products has often compelled the use of rapid prototyping systems but in a certain phase of our history, the prolonged waiting times for prototypes (which were we no more so fast) convinced us to develop autonomously a 3D printing solution. It was not a very arduous task: our know-how ranges from high-speed CNC systems to micronized polymer plasticization, passing through thermoforming and laser cutting. After profitably using the first printer, we believed in the validity of the project and, backed by the opinion of collaborators and suppliers, we started producing 3D printers with the 3ntr brand».

The medium-size 3ntr A4v3 printer allows producing 3D objects with a maximum format of 300x200x200 millimetres

The medium-size 3ntr A4v3 printer allows producing 3D objects with a maximum format of 300x200x200 millimetres

Printers

Among the first customers of the printers produced by Jdeal-Form there are mould and die designers, manufacturers and makers in the moulding and die casting industry. «We in person – states Ardizzoia –have used our printers for implementing prototype moulds for vacuum thermoforming. The use of the 3D printing has allowed us, for instance, to make eight versions of thermoforming moulds last August, conquering an outstanding French customer’s confidence (and orders)».

3ntr printers developed by Jdeal-Form adopt the FFF technology, better known as FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling). They are available in two versions: the medium-size A4v3 has a working area of 300x200x200 millimetres, and the big-size A2v2 a print area of 610x350x500 millimetres. Common and salient features of the two models are the liquid-cooled extruders (410°C maximum temperature), the print plans removable by magnetic coupling, the fully metallic structure and the sealed and heatable print area. «Our printers – underlines Ardizzoia – can print whatever thermoplastic polymer available on the market. Even if the 3D printing with FFF technology has several limits (it is not suitable, for instance, for replicating with precision surface textures or tiny details), our machines are currently used in productive or research ambits».

How mould and die makers use them

Printers with these characteristics have several applications in industrial and professional ambit. But, in particular, how are mould and die makers using them? «The more or less explicit confidentiality clause that binds us to our customers – answers Ardizzoia – imposes us not to go into details. We can however state with certainty that several our customers shifted from the rapid prototyping to the rapid manufacturing phase: when customers can no more justify the cost of a mould/die (maybe even very complex) for productions that do not reach the necessary scale economies, the 3D printing has allowed offering a solution at affordable costs with satisfactory results. Besides, the 3D printing has enabled to print assembly-free parts that in some sectors (for instance anti tamper components for public transports) has made the difference between concept and finished product ».

This printer has the same characteristics as 3ntr A4v3, but one of the broadest print areas in the sector, since it can print objects up to a size of 61x35x 50 centimetres

This printer has the same characteristics as 3ntr A4v3, but one of the broadest print areas in the sector, since it can print objects up to a size of 61x35x 50 centimetres

No possible excuse

We finally try to understand with Davide Ardizzoia what is today, in his opinion, the real penetration degree of 3D printing in the world and what are the reasons for which it is advisable to adopt it. «Forty years ago – he states – only big industries could afford big-format plotters. Twenty years ago, we could state the same for rapid prototyping. Today we can certainly affirm that whoever designs digitally has no excuse for not acquiring a 3D printer. We are still in a developing phase of these technologies but in a highly competitive world it is not conceivable to be the last in availing ourselves of solutions that can involve relevant advantages for any productive activity. Obviously, we must choose the most suitable printing technology for the specific application: however, being able to provide customers with a specimen of what demanded in the lapse of few days, or even hours, contributes to accelerate the time-to-market, even if at a qualitative and engineering level that is not comparable to an injection moulded product (or to any other moulding/thermoforming technology).

It is not a magic box

Davide Ardizzoia wants to underline that the 3D printing is not a magic box that can print everything, that each application involves some determinate expectations in terms of aesthetics and sturdiness that cannot be always satisfied by rapid prototyping technologies and that anyway we are still in a pioneering phase. «The use of the 3D technology –he ends –must still express its full potential, since the number of professional users is still very small. Moreover: one of the major limits of the use of 3D printers is the availability of software that can simplify the shifting phase from the piece geometry to the control file of the printing process. 3D printing CAM still have very wide improvement margins and I would not be surprised if in some years current CAM producers offered the “3D printing” output option.

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