February 16, 2021
ERNI optimizes prototype development with state-of-the-art 3D printing technology
ERNI has started working with LithoLabs to design functional prototype connectors for PCBs with 3D printed housings. 3D printing of the connector housings allows prototyping of the PCB assembly.
LithoLabs GmbH in Erfurt has a wealth of expertise in the field of additive manufacturing with digital light processing (DLP) 3D printing technologies and can provide ERNI with excellent support in prototyping – starting with the right choice of materials.
The material used plays a special role in the new prototyping process, because it must have approximately the same properties as the series products and be suitable for testing and validation. A relatively new material is Henkel's Loctite 3955 FST – a 3D printable photopolymer material with flame, smoke and toxicity resistance properties and a heat deflection temperature of more than 300 °C. The material meets the UL 94V-0 safety standard for fire protection, smoke and toxicity, as well as industry-leading fire protection tests for aerospace applications.
Connector housings printed with Loctite 3955 can also withstand the high temperatures generated by surface mount technology in soldering systems. This means that ERNI can carry out tests on assembled PCB connectors in less time and obtain the optimum design, including customer approvals, more quickly than with conventional development using metal molds in the injection molding process.
Stefan Molitor, design engineer at ERNI, summarizes: "Henkel's 3955 material gives us the opportunity to achieve significant time and cost savings compared to the conventional injection molding process. We are currently still in the early stages of discovering the new possibilities of materials and processes. But we see great potential for the use of additive manufacturing – from rapid prototype development to rapid series production in the future."
Henkel offers a broad portfolio of high-performance photopolymers for the 3D printing industry. The company develops and markets a range of light-curing resins that enable extremely fast production of series components with numerous different properties – from high impact strength to high flexibility, but also with high heat resistance and other functionalities for special applications.