You might be surprised to learn that Marchesini Group, an Italian manufacturer of automated packaging machinery and supplier to the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food industries, is one of Stratasys‘ largest customers in Europe. Now, the companies have revealed exactly how the packaging company has adopted 3D printing to establish a customized production business model.
At its headquarters in Pianoro, a town in the Italian province of Bologna, Marchesini Group operates a 3D printing facility with 10 production-grade FDM systems (one Fortus 900mc, four Fortus 450mc and five F270 systems) as well as two PolyJet multi-material 3D printers. This expansive in-house capability is used throughout the company’s design, development and manufacturing process for Marchesini’s flagship cartoning machines and several other packaging lines. Because each machine produced by the company needs to be customized to its customer’s requirements and production process, 3D printing has proven to be an especially valuable technology.
“At Marchesini Group we say that ‘extra-ordinary is our ordinary’, meaning that we are faced with challenging, entirely customized projects on an almost daily basis,” commented Mirko Fortunati, who is responsible for coordinating the mechanical workshops at Marchesini Group. “However, producing complex, customized parts with traditional manufacturing methods has proved extremely costly and time consuming, which is no longer suited to the growing demands of today’s packaging manufacturing industry.”
“Integrating our industrial-grade FDM 3D printers into our production process has drastically reduced our part lead times from several weeks to a few days,” he added. “Added to that, we can cost-effectively produce the exact quantity of parts we need, without requiring expensive tooling or machining. Having this on-demand production capability enables our engineers to take advantage of the greater design freedom enabled by 3D printing, which has empowered Marchesini Group to achieve higher-quality results for our customers.”
3D printing is also used by the packaging equipment company in its maintenance and repair operations. That is, once its machines are deployed to customers across the globe, Marchesini can manufacture any needed replacement parts with agility and with no minimum order requirement. The ability to produce spare or replacement parts on demand eliminates the need for storage facilities and extensive part inventories, while also enabling the company to deliver parts to customers quickly, for minimal machine down time.
To date, the company has 3D printed thousands of functional parts for its packaging machines, including protective cases, cable support systems and junction boxes. Most of the parts are printed using tough materials like Stratasys’ FDM Nylon 12CF or ULTEM 9085 resin, which are suitable for metal replacement applications. The combination of 3D printing and thermoplastic materials has actually enabled the company to reduce the weight of many parts by at least 30%.
“This not only increases the speed of movement and productivity of the robot for our customers, but it also lessens the rate of degradation,” added Fortunati. “These 3D printing materials also comply with specific industry regulations, which importantly enables us to expand this technology into even more production applications – helping us to further innovate our products for customers.”
Stratasys’ PolyJet technology, for its part, is employed for the production of parts that require two or more materials, including grasping pincers, which combine hard and rubber-like materials in a single component. The company explains that these pincers are used to handle delicate items like leaflets or small jars.
“It’s fair to say that additive manufacturing is an integral part of Marchesini Group production,” concluded Fortunati. “In 2019 alone, we recorded a total of 22,480 hours of operation for our FDM 3D printing equipment – equating to almost 15 hours a day. For our two PolyJet 3D printers, a total of 1,700 hours of operation, the equivalent of about 8 hours a day. As we continue to expand these technologies across our design and production process, we can expect these figures to be even higher in the future.”
Another Italian company working in the packaging industry, Goglio, has also reaped the benefits of 3D printing, as we learned in this article.