Packaging for shipping and processing parts pays dividends on the shop floor when the focus remains on quality materials, efficient design and the right technology. While injection molding and thermoforming remain the main methods for creating plastic packaging, 3D printing dunnage continues to grow as a viable third option.
Dunnage used for shipping and processing parts continues to be a key component in the manufacturing process. Today, it is important that manufacturers know that most dunnage used to transport parts from start to finish can be reused for the lifetime of production. The use of thermoplastic resins and composites allows parts to be used and then recycled.
While virtually all automotive dunnage requires a custom design, after a vehicle design is retired, its associated packaging material can be recycled, helping both manufacturers and the environment. Many companies have taken advantage of additive manufacturing and 3D printing technology to streamline their processes.
A few ways 3D printing has positively impacted dunnage use include:
- Improves the ability to match designs to the exact needs of the user
- Drives down the cost of the prototyping and testing processes
- Reduces costs for low volume part production
- Eliminates the high cost of building multiple dies
- Reduces long lead times and speeds up distribution
- Lowers the cost of building or modifying tooling for design changes
- Reduces potential damage during the shipping process
The wide range of material options used in the 3D printing process allows manufacturers to create dunnage trays that fit the exact needs of the end user. When a part needs special protection from contamination or dust, materials such as TPU can be added. This allows trays for specialized engine and transmission components to be shipped in base trays, while the individual pockets are highly specialized materials at the touch points.