There have been a lot of requests in the printing industry to produce parts in shorter production runs over the last decade. OEMs and other companies are attempting to stock lower inventories on hand for better cash flow and are practicing more just-in-time production. This does however cause a greater cost in production of parts due to setting up tooling for lower quantity runs. One way to combat this is through laser fabrication. Laser fabrication also helps companies avoid the high initial cost of tooling and other related production costs.
Most people associate laser fabrication with metal products, but lasers can now be very efficient and safe in fabricating certain plastics as well. This allows printing companies to fabricate complex metal and plastic parts that could cost an OEM thousands of dollars in prep charges to build tooling. It also enables part construction for projects to utilize metal, plastics and to selectively apply laser fabricated adhesives. Selective adhesives are used primarily on parts that have clear, translucent or dead fronted areas that need to remain adhesive free to work properly. Having the ability to laser fabricate the adhesive again saves the end user the cost of having to pay for production dies.
Another large benefit of avoiding hard tooling construction is time. Some tooling can take six to eight weeks to build. A laser file for fabrication can be created in hours or days depending on the complexity of the part. This has been a large help for the printing industry being able to expedite needs from customers for quick-turn projects. Laser fabrication can also be a valuable tool for prototyping parts before buying tooling for large run projects. Engineers can test parts to ensure proper construction and sizing before investing in hard tooling.
Be sure to consult your printing converter on all options for short-run and prototyping projects. Laser fabricating could be a great tool for saving time and money on your projects whether simple or complex.