Stegerer Metallbau GmbH, deeply committed to innovation, leads the way into a new era for the metal industry with the German RepRap x350 Pro
When you hear the term “traditional craftsmanship,” you don't immediately think of an innovative technology such as 3D printers used for rapid prototyping. But specialist metal fabricator Stegerer Metallbau GmbH is using additive manufacturing to plot a new course for the industry.
Founded in 1998, the company works in a more conservative and traditional field, but focuses on innovative product and process development. One way to increase its efficiency was with the purchase of a German RepRap X-series 3D printer: the x350 Pro. “This benefits both us and our clients,” explains chief executive Ingo Lederer. “The printer is used for rapid pre-production prototyping, creating considerable value for both parties. We can test whether everything works exactly as planned, and clients get a visual preview of the parts to be built, so they can make last-minute modifications.”
It’s probably Mr. Lederer who deserves most of the credit for getting the company into using 3D printers. He is a big fan of all things technical and after reading about additive fabrication in industry magazines, he was convinced that a 3D printer would bring nothing but advantages. “The German RepRap printer allows early recognition of problems, which ends up saving us money and valuable production time. Simpler and better construction is another advantage for us, and so is the fast fabrication of accessories and replacement parts.”
Stegerer regularly invests in new technology, along with training for employees, who welcome 3D printing projects. One of the latest training projects, an apprentice’s final exam piece, was a foosball table for the company’s office. A model was printed with the x350 Pro, and the final table was built based on that prototype. “We’re all technology geeks here, and we actually have fun with it,” Lederer says.
Figure 1: Model of the foosball table, printed from PLA with the x350 Pro
Stegerer’s preferred material is performance PLA, due to its good printing properties, which allow for a successful production almost every time. It is exactly right for the company’s requirements. According to Mr. Lederer, there is one important consideration: keep the dimensions down, as overly large PLA builds are more likely to warp. Lederer’s experience with PLA on the German RepRap x350 Pro has been very positive. “Before we bought the x350 Pro, we used an X150 to test the technology. Since we were very happy with both the German-made quality and the availability of spare parts, we decided to buy our second machine from German RepRap as well. We felt the x350 Pro performed better than what manufacturers were offering, , so our decision was clear.”
Figure 2: Playing field enclosure, printed from PLA with the x350 Pro
Projects like the foosball table motivate employees to familiarize themselves with the technology through continuing education. “Assuming that 3D printing is the technology of the future, this gives us a competitive edge in the industry going forward,” Lederer explains. “And we accepted the challenge immediately.” Today, the foosball table doubles as the office conference table, an ever-present reminder of 3D printing’s potential.
“The x350 Pro gives us a whole series of advantages,” Lederer concludes. “We save a lot of money when we do our own prototyping instead of outsourcing it, so we can detect problems and weaknesses before final production starts. Our customers also benefit by seeing models of the final products. We couldn’t do without this technology now: it’s our future. It helps us to plan our projects better, creates more satisfied customers, and saves time and money.”
Figure 3: The metal table and the original model
With the help of this technology, Stegerer has been named as one of Germany's top 100 innovators by the prestigious Mittelstands-Summit, an annual conference which has been awarding this honor for over twenty years.