K-Space Associates Saves Money With 3D-Printed Prototypes

September 20, 2019

K-Space Associates Saves Money With 3D-Printed Prototypes

k-Space Associates is a leading manufacturer of metrology tools for the semiconductor, thin-film, photovoltaic, solar, automotive, glass and building materials industries. The company’s tools and custom solutions can be found in research and production facilities all around the world.

For years, kSA has 3D printed custom electronics boxes used for the calibration of tools, fixturing for optical components, and full-size optical probe prototypes. The company originally purchased the MakerGear M2 and recently upgraded to the MakerGear Ultra One large-format industrial printer for mass producing components.

k-Space uses its MakerGear 3D printers to create fully functional prototypes of systems intended to be CNC machined out of aluminum. It has printed entirely new products for only a few dollars to test tolerances or fix misalignments prior to final machining.

Many of k-Space’s customers use various types of vacuum chambers and have strict timelines for when their processes can be shut down. 3D printing allows k-Space to make optical probe prototypes and send them to customers, so they can test fitment on the vacuum chambers prior to receiving the real product. The ability to test for fitment issues ahead of schedule, often before making the actual product, is critical to saving both time and money.

“We were able to design and print an entire optical shutter system in only a few short hours,” says Hunter Van Eck, an application engineer with kSA. “This allowed us to test and prove the viability of our product’s design and potentially save upwards of $150,000 across an entire order of 100 units. This more than pays for the cost of the machine!”

k-Space Associates also uses 3D-printed components inside its own systems, including adapter plates for fitting together oddly shaped objects, custom holders for optics, and cable clamps. kSA typically uses PETG and Nylon filaments for these production-ready components.