Carl Zeiss Optical Components are a manufacturer of microscopes, optical sensors and multi-sensoric machines for industrial measurement and quality assurance across a wide variety of industries.
To produce accurate machines, alignment of light to the optical measurement axes is critical. ZEISS would traditionally achieve this manually with brackets and adjustment screws but as every machine is unique this was a time consuming and costly process requiring production of several parts, mounting and then adjustment.
3D printing has enabled ZEISS to reliably 3D print unique adapter plates for every microscope in serial production. The adapter plates are standardized parts with customized angles to suit the unique product. By measuring the angles of their specific machine, designing and then 3D printing the adapter plate, the team can ensure light travels exactly in the right direction to the sensor for accurate measurement. The 3D printed adapter plates are also designed in a way that they are easy to replace by customers and spare parts can be easily printed on demand.
Today ZEISS have expanded their applications to include 3D printed jigs and fixtures and prototyping of customized products for specific industries and customers.
"We think that individual solutions for meeting customer applications – this bigger trend of individualization – makes it more important to have closed-loop and fast-developed iterations," Johannes Grimm, Manager Operational Excellence at ZEISS
Alongside repeatability and reliability, intuitive and easy to use integration of the hardware and software were important for ZEISS as the 3D printers would be installed in the assembly room for multiple employees to 3D print jigs and fixtures for themselves.
Ultimaker’s open-filament system, its Material Alliance, its open-source slicing software, Ultimaker Cura, and its price relative to competitors were all factors that led to ZEISS choosing Ultimaker.
Ultimately, however, the decision to go with Ultimaker was fairly simple: the machines hit on ZEISS’ two magic words – words around which products, processes, and workflows must orbit if the company is to stay at the top of its game.
"The results were reliable, and the results are repeatable, hat’s important for a stable production process." Johannes said.
Investment in Ultimaker 3D printers has decreased costs from what was a €300 process down to approximately €20 per 3D printed part. Additionally lead times for ZEISS reduced from months to days enabling their team more time to iterate and deliver a perfect product to customers.
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