Snow Business: 3D printing final parts for high-value snow machines

Snow Business: 3D printing final parts for high-value snow machines

Snow Business is all about snow. Snow is all we do For us, absolute perfection is the most important thing The nozzle is the most important part, and this
is where most of the focus of R&D goes and the only way to do it is with 3D printing My name is Paul Denney, and I’m Head of Research
for Snow Business International We’re the world’s biggest suppliers of winter special
effects to the film and television industry The chances are, if you’ve seen a movie like Star Wars
or Bridget Jones’s Diary or Game of Thrones then the snow you’ve seen is made by us The principal part of my job is to design
the falling snow machines It’s not really snow, it’s actually made from foam, and
the most important part of the machine is the nozzle As you can see it’s a really
complicated geometric shape and it takes the air and the fluid and it combines
them together to create the snow effect There’s no way we could make this any other way
other than by 3D printing – it’s far too complicated So what I have to do is I design a nozzle
and I try it and I see how the effect works,
and then I make small adjustments and I try it again and I keep going and going and going until eventually I come up with something like this,
which I think was attempt number 15 When I started making these originally,
I was outsourcing them to SLS printers The problem with that,
it was about £125 minimum order and it would take anything up to 7 days
with the turnaround So what I really needed was a technology
that I could use myself, on-site that would be able to do what I needed it to do That’s when we bought our first Ultimaker printer,
the Ultimaker 2 The idea was that I could use it to speed up
our iterative R&D process so that we could come down on the designs
far more quickly but I quickly realized that we didn’t actually have to then
have them made using SLS The printer was good enough to make
final finished parts themselves With the Ultimaker, I can print that in 7 hours, I can test it,
make a small adjustment and print another one The cost difference between outsourcing this
and doing it myself That cost me a couple of euros worth of plastic whereas before it was £125
every time I wanted to make a design change The reduction in cost and the time savings
that we achieved with the Ultimaker meant that, effectively, the first printer we bought
for the company paid for itself within 2 weeks The first printer I bought was the Ultimaker 2,
and the first nozzles I printed were in ABS The problem with putting a support structure on ABS
if you try to print the nozzle in one part is that you get left with some rough edges
around some bits of the part In order to overcome that, I would print in two parts
and stick them together Now that we’ve got the Ultimaker 3
and we can print in Nylon and PVA we can print the part in one piece straight off, so we’ve
saved ourselves all that time in post-processing Using the Nylon, we get quite a reliable
and repeatable print If it gets bashed it’s going to survive.
With ABS, we may well have to change it The other beauty of using Nylon is the fact that
the PVA dissolves away so there are absolutely no marks on it at all
from where the support structure was I think in the future, 3D printing is going to be
absolutely huge and it’s going to make massive inroads into automotive
technology and space technology and it’s really good for us as a company to be in
at the very start of this technology with the best printers in the world, I think

About the Author: Michael Flood

1 Comment

  1. Pretty cool. He should try what #3DMakerNoob and #3DPrintingNerd have tried and use the PVA just for the interface layer to save even more money.

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