After many years spent in planning, development and design, Thomas Pazulla decided to strike a new career path in 2012 and launched his own technical services firm called TP Technische Dienstleistungen. The small company stands out due to its customer intimacy and individual service.
Since 2013, Mr. Pazulla has been leveraging the capabilities of 3D printing technology. Shortly after starting his company, Mr. Pazulla saw an opportunity to begin offering additive manufacturing (AM) services. However, milling machines were very expensive to buy. This is when he discovered the benefits of 3D printing and learned of a nearby company – German RepRap – that specialized in manufacturing 3D printers. The tech-savvy entrepreneur visited German RepRap’s plant in Feldkirchen and took a close look at the technology and machines they had to offer. He was convinced in no time. “Their quality, and especially their value proposition, were right on! So I immediately bought my first German RepRap x400.” The device proved very useful for many applications, and as Mr. Pazulla received more and more orders, he decided to purchase a second machine. “Initially, I bought one additional machine every six months, then three machines per year during the past two years – by now, we have a total of nine 3D printers working for my wife and me: five German RepRap x400 printers and four German RepRap x350 printers,” Thomas Pazulla states.
The market has been growing exponentially for several years, and soon the German RepRap family will be introducing the x1000 3D printer for large industrial parts. Thomas Pazulla makes a point in keeping up with the times and staying abreast of emerging technologies. That’s why he plans to include liquid additive manufacturing into his suite of services, as soon as this technology becomes available on the market. “Liquid Additive Manufacturing (LAM) is a brand-new innovative technology with extensive use in the automotive industry. Many of my customers are already anticipating this machine, as it also allows processing various silicones with the 3D printer,” Mr. Pazulla explained.
Figure 1: Series production with five German RepRap x400 3D printers
Lately, demand is increasing for series production. Mr. Pazulla recently accepted an order for the series manufacturing of 40,000 parts for an automotive client. “This customer was suddenly in a big rush: 40,000 parts had to be manufactured within a very short time. Now, that is a completely different scale for us,” said Thomas Pazulla, laughing. A project of this magnitude was a first for this small company. The client’s regular supplier had to cancel at short notice, and they did not have the necessary time for a tooling change to produce the required parts, so they had to improvise. Since they had already a relationship with Mr. Pazulla, the client decided to contract his company’s additive manufacturing services using the German RepRap 3D printers. 3D printing the needed parts turned out to be the perfect workaround for this challenge – and all that with the added benefit of cost-efficiency.
Figure 2: The German RepRap x350 simultaneously printing 16 parts for series production
Turning this project around in time meant that 500 parts had to be manufactured daily; within four months, 40,000 parts were printed. Eight of the 3D printers were essentially running 24/7 to fulfill this order. 16 parts took about 8 hours to print. Each of the eight machines printed 16 of these parts simultaneously. Thus, after 8 hours, eight 3D printers finished the job and together delivered 128 parts; that meant 384 parts after a 24-hour shift. Sometimes, the ninth 3D printer joined in (e.g. for production on weekends ahead of time) in order to reach the 500 parts per day target. The finished product is a part to be glued into the door trim of passenger cars.
The material used was ABS filament from German RepRap. The material was chosen by the customer, since ABS had all the required technical properties. One of these properties is resistance to aqueous acids, alkalis, or concentrated hydrochloric and phosphoric acids. ABS allows continuous use at temperatures between -22 °F and 185 °F and does not ignite until a temperature of 752 °F is reached.
By now, Thomas Pazulla has completed the job to the customer's total satisfaction and is looking forward to additional projects. As Mr. Pazulla explains, “The advantages of 3D printing are undeniable – we can hand our customers their first prototypes or hand samples much sooner. Automotive clients in particular value a fast turn-around. A speedy delivery of the first samples is critical to them – within a few days or even hours, in most cases. The German RepRap 3D printers are equally suitable for the series production of plastic parts, thanks to their high process stability and compliance with industry standards. This opens up completely new possibilities for applications that, up until now, required injection molding. German RepRap is supporting this trend with its commitment to the development of materials and systems. I am expecting a significant increase in 3D printing orders involving small to medium lots of fused deposition molding FDM parts.”