Rufalex Rolladen-Systeme AG in Kirchberg BE does not only print prototypes and jigs and fixtures with their Ultimaker 3D printers but also serial parts for their production in Switzerland. This allows the company to stay flexible and able to supply in times of uncertain logistics and supply chains.
The show case presented here is about an inlet wedge, i.e., a simple plastic part that is responsible for smoothly inserting of a roller shutter into their guides. Such a part is also used in not too small quantities at Rufalex. Therefore, it is not an application one would consider to be especially well-suited for 3D printing. As a matter of fact, this part has been produced by injection molding for Rufalex in the past.
But it turned out that this inlet wedge sees often small changes of the adjacent components for roller shutters that include an insect screen. Those changes can be caused by amended regulations or enhancements of the insect screen cartridges used.
First, the injection-molded parts have been modified in costly post processes, so they fit again into the modified designs. This led to more than double the costs per part. Thus, Rufalex decided to use printed inlet guides henceforth. Currently, those inlet guides are printed from Ultimaker ABS, which brought back the costs onto the previous level of the injection-molded parts. When the sum of changes exceeds a certain level, one can add the cost of an injection mold to the cost savings.
A positive side effect is that the stock level of those parts is minimal. They are produced on demand. This independence from external suppliers is very valuable for companies like Rufalex in the current uncertain situation in logistics as it is the result of the Covid pandemic.