The GEKO machine intervenes at the end of the roof construction when a membrane is laid to make the roof waterproof. In order to fix this membrane, the GEKO machine is used to heat metal plates, placed under the membrane, which then stick to it. The machine consists of a "heart" and an "inductor", which is the equivalent of the induction plate of the home kitchens in a portable version. The heart and inductor are connected to each other with a cable about ten meters long so that the operator can carry only the inductor and perform the welding in the various points required.
The handle made by Superforma is the handle of the inductor that is activated by the button housed in it. While the rest of the machine was mostly made using standard commercial components, the handle required custom fabrication since there were no handles on the market with integrated push buttons small enough to fit the inductor and comfortable enough for the operator to hold all day.
Understanding UBB's design needs, we produced an initial prototype of their handle design. The prototype was made in ABS via FDM printing within our lab in 4 hours. UBB then performed tests on the prototype, which resulted in the modification of the design in order to optimize its ergonomics. A second prototype was made in ABS and its ergonomic and sealing properties were tested with the GEKO machine in use. Since the second prototype met the customer's needs, we made ten handles using selective sintering 3D printing (SLS) thanks to our manufacturing partner. The handles were in this case produced in polyamide an engineering thermoplastic that was chosen for its performance: the nylon molded components are strong, rigid, tough and durable.
SLS 3D printing allows for low cost per unit, high productivity, and the ability to have custom small batch production. The most tangible improvement that the client company has had, therefore, is to have had custom products made in small batches without sacrificing quality and performance, at a low price and in a short time. The realization of the same product, if it had been made through standard industrial production techniques such as injection molding, would have involved longer times and higher costs for the creation of ad hoc molds, not sustainable for such a small production volume. In addition, rapid prototyping using FDM 3D printing made it possible to immediately verify the performance of the handle and then optimize its design.