Dunlop has taken its first step into the use of additive technology with the purchase of a desktop machine

Dunlop Systems and Components in Coventry, UK, manufactures parts for anti-vibration units for use in applications including automotive air suspension systems. Production engineering manager Mark Statham noted that the main type of unit the company produces at the site is, “a sleeve or diaphragm” that involves mating a rubberised envelope with a metal top plate. 

Within the last 12 months Dunlop has taken its first step into the use of additive technology with the purchase of a Mark Two desktop machine, made by US supplier Markforged, that can fabricate composite parts using a matrix of that company’s proprietary Onyx thermoplastic material with various reinforcement options including carbon fibre.

Statham says the machine was purchased with the aim of making tooling to support fixturing and handling applications in its manufacturing operations rather than as a prototyping or final part production system. Specifically, he explains the tooling made by the machine could replicate the ‘soft’ handling performance of nylon needed to avoid any danger of surface marking of products during manufacture but with enhanced thermal and physical resilience. 

Reducing lead times and costs

Lead-times for making the tooling have been significantly reduced. The previous nylon tooling was made by local sub-contracting firms and the lead time could easily be “six to eight weeks”. Now, with all operations carried out in-house, Statham says “just a few days” are all that is required and that small replacement parts can be made on the machine “in a matter of hours”. In financial terms, the outlay on tooling has been reduced to aproximately 20% of the previous cost. 

Statham adds that actually getting the machine into full operation was a fairly easy task. Some slight modifications to the company’s CAD database were required to allow for the way the additive technique can locally strengthen parts, but he confirms that the in-house team quickly taught itself all it needed to know, so much so that the machine was being left to carry out unattended overnight and week-end operations just a fortnight after it was delivered. 


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