Centor, an award-winning manufacturer of industrial door systems, faced a challenge: validating component and assembly designs was inhibited by high machining costs and unreliable outsourcing. With the adoption of a Markforged 3D-printer, the company can produce robust, high-quality functional prototypes in-house more efficiently, rapidly iterating on product designs and validating fit, form and basic function.

Centor develops custom-integrated doors for residential and commercial buildings. Each unique design requires a proof of concept. Three in-house machinists used to spend all their time fabricating components in low volumes, with additional components being outsourced. This approach led to inconsistent quality, lengthy production times, and excess costs.

Seeking an alternative, David Chappell, Group Manager of Product & Engineering at Centor, took a chance on a Markforged Mark Two rapid prototyping machine. He was immediately impressed.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever actually seen a 3D printer do what it promised in a real-life design studio factory like ours,” said Chappell. “It just runs.”

While his team of experienced manufacturers intially expressed doubt about integrating 3D printing in their workflow, they now run the printer almost 24/7. It enabled them to redirect machining bandwidth, iterate on designs, learn quickly from printed parts, and present compelling proofs of concepts to customers. This in-house efficiency “takes out one blockage to innovation”.

The tight tolerances delivered by the printer ensure that multiple components fit together perfectly and enable the prototype folding doors to function reliably. Markforged’s cloud software allows Centor to easily translate their CAD designs into printed parts, with accurate time and cost estimates. Free from the constraints of subtractive machining, 3D printed parts can be designed with complex geometries that improve product function.

By switching to printing on the Markforged machine, Centor reduced the time it took to produce functional prototypes from 156 hours to 12 hours, and cut costs from $800 to $10 – savings of 93% and 99% respectively. Centor has further optimised its production by printing jigs and weatherproof end-use parts. It will soon have a Markforged printer in each of its four factories across Australia, China, Poland, and the US.

Markforged will be exhibiting at Austech 2019 at Stand: AM25.