Global Laser: 3D printing solutions

Project Description

Global Laser and University of South Wales collaborated on a CPE project to investigate the feasibility of implementing an in-house manufacturing capability based on 3D printing technology.

Project Details

  • Company: Global Laser Ltd
  • CPE partner: University of South Wales
  • Location: Blaenau Gwent

“Working in collaborating with CPE has helped us to identify 3D printing solutions that fulfil our demanding tolerances in our laser products. We now believe that this technology can be applied to a number of products which will lead to huge cost reductions and help us improve our profits. We are very pleased with the insight that this project has given.

David Beckerley (Financial Director), Global Laser Ltd

Global Laser is a designer and manufacturer of low power laser diode modules. They are located  near the Brecon Beacons National Park and their factory covers 9500 sq/ft of engineering laboratories, machine shops and a substantial production floor space. Main applications of their products are in machine vision, alignment, medical, measurement, positioning, scientific and defense.

The company requires many small parts such as laser mounts, holders etc which are designed in-house but manufactured by an external supplier using CNC machining or injection molding, which is costly for prototyping or small batch quantities. Global Laser worked together with USW on a feasibility study to see if the company would benefit from investment in 3D printers bringing in-house manufacturing capabilities.

Within the USW, there is access to a range of equipment for prototype development, including two types of 3D printer: FDM and SLA. The FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling) 3D printer uses a heated nozzle to selectively deposit polymer materials. SLA (stereolithography) uses a vat of resin which is selectively cured by a laser. USW recreated a range of Global Laser parts using these two 3D printing solutions which were then tested and quality assessed by the company. Both the FDM and SLA techniques were found to be suitable depending on individual part requirements, such as size tolerance and cost effectiveness.

Global Laser have since invested in an FDM 3D printer and a further purchase of an SLA type is anticipated later in the year. This will result in significant cost savings of an estimated 5% equating to approximately £8k per year. The CPE project has also established a longer term collaborative working relationship between Global Laser and USW with a KESS studentship which started in July 2020.