Popp Group designs prototypes used for medical equipment. Their prototype development has become much more efficient due to their purchase of a German RepRap x400 3D printer. Popp Group is often asked to design special components of patient tables used in MRI scanners. Rene Schneider, project lead at Popp Group explains, “The PLA frequently used in 3D printing is ideal for medical technology since it is non-imaging and therefore doesn’t show in an MRI scan.” The specific project of the Forchheim-based Popp Group involved the development of a winding body for a rotating device which later had to be fitted directly onto the patient table. The designed part had to accommodate the fixing and assembly components as well as the cover. Even though the end product was injection molded, the entire prototyping process was completed with the x400 printer from GRR. “Only when we are certain that no more modifications are required do we create the expensive injection mold part”, said Rene Schneider, “Up till that moment, everything is done with 3D printing. Any faults or changes required by the customer are easy to rectify and implement. We previously had to wait several days for a new prototype, such as for CNC milled parts. The 3D printed prototype is available in a matter of hours.” The printing of this particular winding body took around 10-12 hours. Thanks to the large build area of approximately 40 x 40 cm, Popp Group was able to print three parts at the same time.
When you compare 3D printing to conventional prototyping, there are no disadvantages. Prototypes are required to have the same properties as the end product- same mechanics, function and material characteristics. When asked about their 3D printer, Rene Schneider states, “3D printing has become firmly established in product development at the Popp Group. Our x400 3D printer runs at full capacity.”