In the late 19th century, buildings had to contend with the process of electrification, installing fixtures and wires to provide electrical light and power to residences, offices and institutions. With this large-scale effort to implement a new technology, the need for new hardware and tools was born. Rawplug, founded in 1887, was one of the pioneers of this era, developing and patenting the world’s first wall plug—originally implemented by the British Museum to fix electrical wall fittings. More than a hundred years on and the company has kept up this innovative spirit, turning to Sinterit’s SLS 3D printing to develop and prototype new wall plug products.
Today, wall plugs may seem fairly innocuous: every household has a few lying around and most will be using them to secure shelving or art to their walls. This prevalence makes it easy to forget that an incredible amount of engineering was put into the small components. Rawplug, perhaps most of all, knows this to be true. In fact, the company is proud to share that its products are used in major construction projects across the world, from Wembley Stadium to Burj Khalifa. Even NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover uses Rawplug products.
Now, 3D printing is transforming how the company is bringing new products to market, speeding up R&D timeframes dramatically and consequently reducing costs. “I can confidently say that nowadays 3D printing is one of the most important avenues for prototyping,” said Dominika Zarowna, Design Engineer at Rawplug. “Due to the fact that we are able to check certain solutions on a printout, we need to create much fewer prototype forms. It saves a considerable amount of time, both for us and the tooling workshop.”
When Rawplug first became interested in using 3D printing, the company relied on external parties to produce prototypes, largely because SLS technology was so costly. More recently, however, it has brought 3D printing in house with the acquisition of the Lisa PRO SLS 3D printer by Sinterit. This technology, whose price is a fraction of industrial SLS systems, has supported Rawplug’s Design Engineering team as it both creates new products and optimizes existing ones.
“When I first came on board as a new hire, we used to outsource the printing to third parties,” Zarowna explains. “This often took a considerable amount of time. What we needed was a 3D printer of our own, in order to reduce the waiting times to a minimum. At the same time, we were on the lookout for new technologies. Given the price and quality requirements, Lisa PRO was the only real choice on the market.”
The Lisa PRO is one of two SLS 3D printers offered by Sinterit (the other is the flagship Lisa). The system has a maximum build volume of 4.33 x 6.33 x 9.65 inches and comes with a built-in nitrogen chamber, broadening the range of compatible materials. For Rawplug, the high quality printing capability of the Lisa PRO was one of the main draws.
“Our main concern is quality, which is why prior to finalizing the purchase, we had put together a comprehensive model to test the different capabilities of the printer, its accuracy, as well as the printing of nested elements, which would not have been possible in other technologies. We ended up being happy with the results, in turn, we made the decision to choose Lisa PRO,” Zarowna added.
“Lisa PRO is not quite the quickest 3D printer, but for us that is not a big concern, because we reduced the waiting time for prints from two weeks to two days. We have additionally worked out a system where we start printing on a Friday afternoon and the prints are already waiting for us on Monday when we come to work.”
Another convenient factor of using the Lisa PRO is that 95% of Rawplug’s products fit in the printer’s build space. That means the company only has to outsource prototypes for about 5% of products, an occurrence which it says only happens about twice a year. Overall, bringing Sinterit’s SLS platform in house for R&D and prototyping has enabled Rawplug to take on a more agile and efficient workflow, saving significant time and resources.
This article was published in collaboration with Sinterit.