Ceratizit UK & Ireland’s investment in apprentice training is paying off with Stephen Pennington completing his Manufacturing Technology apprenticeship and final year Industrial Project by designing and manufacturing a feature rich custom cartesian 3D printer. This printer will now be used in the new Ceratizit Technology Centre in Sheffield to rapidly prototype special tooling prior to their manufacture within the group, as well as other workshop applications.Stephen, who is now a Projects Sales Engineer working in the Ceratizit Technology Centre, was given full creative control of the project, which involved carrying out a review of existing desktop 3D printing systems and identifying the best features of each, then incorporating them into his design. The result was a printer featuring a fully custom aluminium frame, linear rail technology to move each axis, 32bit mainboard for control, an auto bed levelling sensor, direct drive extrusion and a touchscreen user interface to name a few. In total, 150 hours were spent on the project, which included 50 hours of machining components on the XYZ 800 HD vertical machining centre located within Ceratizit UK & Ireland’s Technology Centre and the writing of a 7000-word dissertation.
While the design element of the project went ahead with minimal complications, the deadline to finish the machining, assembly and testing of the 3D printer was fast approaching. Machining was to be done in the Ceratizit Technology Centre, which at the time was still being finalised and machines still being installed, time was running out for Stephen. “It was just a month before my deadline when the XYZ 800 HD machine was installed and I was itching to get started. I had created the assembly, parts and programs using Fusion 360 CAD/CAM software and, of course, the Ceratizit tooling that I needed was ready and waiting. So as soon as the machine was fully commissioned, I began the machining of the main structural components,” says Stephen Pennington.
Stephen underwent training on the XYZ 800 HD machine under the guidance of XYZ Machine Tools’ Mark Higson and was quickly conversant with all of the machine’s capabilities. This allowed him to maximise the performance of the Ceratizit tooling, which included AluLine DLC (Diamond Like Coating) milling cutters ranging in size from 4m to 16 mm, making use of the various cutter geometries available to him. A range of Ceratizit thread milling cutters and solid carbide drills were also part of the tooling package utilised in the project. Throughout the project Stephen was mentored by Ceratizit UK & Ireland Technical Manager Shaun Thornton, who kept a watching brief, offering advice and guidance when required.
While many apprentice projects simply gather dust on a shelf, Stephen’s 3D printer is going to be hard at work creating rapid prototype models of special tooling for customers. These will be used to aid visualisation of the finished tool, allow clearances to be checked and generate the confidence that customers are looking for prior to full manufacture of the tools.