Manufacturing Today - January/February 2017 - 38

SPECIAL SECTION Additive Manufacturing

production line. Most of the manpower is spent on the change-over for each
new spool of filament and packaging,
tasks that Schneider says the company
is not yet ready to automate.

Stamp of Quality

3domfuel's monofilament
manufacturing process
is design to achieve the
highest quality.

they shared a common goal of making 3-D printing more sustainable and
each had strengths that would complement the others in a partnership.
3D-Fuel, for instance, had an established brand with a reputation in the
industry for making high-quality filament with strong sales and marketing
experience. 3Dom USA, meanwhile,
had connections with 3-D printing
equipment manufacturers, and 3Dom
Europe brought its own relationships
and overall awareness of materials
used by the rest of the plastics industry. "We were all filling gaps that each
other had," Schneider says.
The merger led to some consolidation within the new company. 3DomFuel still has operations in Missouri,
where 3D-Fuel was headquartered, but
the company no longer manufacturers
in the Show-Me State. Production is
done out of the company's facilities in
Fargo, N.D., and Moville, Ireland.
Each facility has two production
lines for making 3-D printer filament,
38

manufacturing-today.com JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2017

giving 3DomFuel a combined output
of 18,000 spools per month. That rate
of production may soon need a boost:
Schneider says 3DomFuel is finalizing
agreements with some larger customers that may require the company to
expand its manufacturing capacity
five-fold. 3DomFuel has identified areas where it can expand the size of its
facilities if necessary, but Schneider
says the main concern will be to quickly add more production lines.
The key to rapid expansion is having reliable equipment sources in
place. The company has narrowed its
list of vendors down to two or three
suppliers, allowing it to swiftly make
purchases once the need to expand
capacity arrives.
3DomFuel's growth is tied to its
equipment and capacity, but the efficiency of its production lines means the
company is less dependent on growing
its labor force. Because of the inherent
leanness of automation, it only takes
an average of 1.5 employees to run each

Monofilament manufacturing itself is
a straightforward process, according
to Schneider, but one that is designed
to achieve the highest quality regardless of the material used. The resins
3DomFuel works with are moisture
sensitive so the company must first
use membrane and desiccant dryers
to ensure the material is at the correct
moisture level.
Once dried, the resin is melted,
pushed through a single screw extruder. For filaments that require colorant,
master batch is added and mixed via a
special section of the screw. It then
moves into a cooling tank where the
filament sizing occurs. At the same
time, the filament is pulled to the
correct size while a laser micrometer
measures its diameter and roundness
1,000 times per second.
Many other manufacturers only
measure their products after the filament has been produced, and only
from a small sample of the total production. Because it scans during production, 3DomFuel is able to measure
the entire spool and guarantees the final product is within 0.05 millimeters
of the stated diameter.
"Nothing leaves our facility that
isn't within tolerance," Schneider
adds. If the sensor detects a fault
during manufacturing, the filament
is pulled from production and then
recycled for another materials run.
However, that faulty filament won't
be blended with virgin materials because it could create varying grades
of material with different melting
points. If mixed, the recycled and vir-


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Manufacturing Today - January/February 2017

Table Of Contents
Manufacturing Today - January/February 2017 - Cover1
Manufacturing Today - January/February 2017 - Cover2
Manufacturing Today - January/February 2017 - 1
Manufacturing Today - January/February 2017 - Table Of Contents
Manufacturing Today - January/February 2017 - 3
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Manufacturing Today - January/February 2017 - Cover3
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