After initially outsourcing their 3D printing needs, the company recently completed installation of its second machine from SYS Systems to enable around the clock production at its diamond R&D centre in Maidenhead, UK. Here, the company’s engineers create automated methods for verifying and sorting diamonds, as well as machines that ensure all synthetics and treatments can be detected.
The machines produced at De Beers Technologies UK have to provide unparalleled efficiency, flexibility and consistency and some are required to operate at speeds of up to eight diamonds per second to produce assortments according to size, shape, colour and clarity. Working with precious diamonds there is no room for error and with 3D printed components the company has benefited from complete design freedom, running machines virtually non-stop on production and R&D parts.
Senior Mechanical Engineer, Andrew Portsmouth, commented: “Whenever I come up with an idea the first thought is always ‘will it work?’. Now we can put it on the Fortus overnight so that the next day we are testing it, assessing it, and figuring out any limitations. We can then modify the design and put it back on the 3D printer overnight. The following morning we are testing the next iteration. In terms of reducing development time, it’s impossible to put a value on what 3D printing has saved us.”
One particular example is a component called an optical measurement cell housing, which has an external diameter of around 250mm and contains a number of complex features.
“The way it’s been designed means there is no other way to make it than with additive manufacturing, and it has many benefits because of that,” Andrew explained. “Manufacturing it on the Fortus 360mc represented a three- or four-fold reduction in production cost compared with than the previous machining method simply because it’s a much cheaper process.”
As a result of De Beers’ success with its Fortus 360mc, the company invested in its second Stratasys machine, the Dimension 1200es to leverage the flexibility of different material types and colours.
“The message is going out across the company that we now have a comprehensive 3D printing facility featuring professional, high performance machines,” says Technical Manager Trevor Poulter. “As a result, we can better react to specific requirements, and in a very quick time.”