How it's Made

How it's Made

August 10, 2020

Ever wonder why it takes so long to get a Bup mount?  This article will provide an overview of what we do to produce a single product.

Short Run Production

This is a term used when products are manufactured in small quantities due to a single constraint.  One practical advantage of short run production is being able to make adjustments without the high tooling costs associated with high volume manufacturing.  A disadvantage is a limited amount of products can be created in the same time period.

Factory

3D Printing for Short Run

Manufacturers large and small are leaning more and more on 3D printing to fill the gap between costly tooling and production output.  Modern 3D commercial printers have significantly improved over the years.  Improvements to speed, quality and material properties have opened up options previously not available only a few years ago.

3D Printing and Thermal Plastics

Bulk manufactured parts are almost always made from thermal plastics (aka injection molded) due to the speed of manufacturing that method affords but comes with high tooling costs.  Bup Labs uses some parts made from thermal plastics for high-load components, but all of our mounts are made with commercial 3D printers.  We will focus on 3D printed parts in this article.

3D Printing Technology

The technology used for 3D printing varies.  Most production grade small parts are made using SLS, SLA, or DLP technologies.

At Bup Labs we use commercial grade SLS and SLA printers.  Raw SLS prints can be identified by a slightly rough and sandy texture.  SLS is porous and can absorb water.  SLA has much finer detail and is somewhat harder and stiffer.  SLA is heat resistant and generally does not absorb water.

SLS PrinterSLA Printer

Materials

Bup Labs uses common plastics such as ABS, PA and PC.  Some variation of these materials are used in almost all commercial plastic products.  We use proprietary mixtures of materials to make our parts.

For 3D printing, some materials come in the form of powder and some in the form of a photopolymer resin.  In both cases, a laser is used to melt or solidify the material into a solid form.  Unlike consumer grade FDM, the products have isotropic strength.  This simply means that they are just as strong in the Z axis as the X and Y axis.

Raw SLS Nylon part

SLS parts are white due to the nature of the material.  These parts have to be dyed to get the desired black color.

Manufacturing

Printing a part is just the beginning of the manufacturing process.  After creating a part, excess material must to be removed.  For SLS, this typically involves sand blasting and tumbling to remove the rough finish.  For SLA, it typically means cutting away support sprues and finishing the contact points.

Rough finished part

Next, we take the parts and subject them to various chemical and soap and water baths.  This serves to clean the parts and remove any traces of residual powder or polymers.

Part bath

The parts are then inspected under magnification and wet sanded to remove any remaining residuals from printing such as flashing or sprue nubs.  The parts get another bath and are set out to dry for 24 hours.  Afterwards, they are treated in special ovens to fully anneal the plastic.

Washed part

After they are annealed, the surface is prepared.  This step prepares the plastic for a sealing coat.  They get a final bath and are left to dry.  They now have an ashen appearance and must be handled with gloves to prevent the transfer of oils to the surface.

Surface prepared part

Sealing

All plastics degrade in UV light (i.e., sunlight).  Thermal plastics by their nature are more sensitive to heat.  The same holds true for SLS printed parts.  SLA parts are much more heat resistant and don't melt.  To protect our parts from damaging UV rays, we use an enamel sealant that bonds to the plastic and prevents UV damage.  Then, the parts are heated to cure and bond the sealant.

Parts after final cleaning

Sealed parts

Assembly

Once everything has cured for 24 hours, we start the assembly; for example, pressing the locknuts into the part cavity.  Another final inspection is done and if the part has any visible defects, it is discarded; otherwise it is ready for packaging.

Assembly of Garmin Varia arm

Packaging

We create any necessary literature for each package and prepare bags for the product and support items (screws, etc.).  The product bag gets a bar code to identify the part and the build version of the part.

We start bagging components like screws and wrenches in separate bags.  We do this to prevent scratching the parts during shipment.  Then we place the literature, tool bag, and parts in the final bag.  The product is now ready for sale.

Packaged Garmin Varia arm

We hope this glimpse into our production process helps you understand the amount of effort we put into making quality products and why they are unique.



New UMS v2 Mounts

We have improved the Universal Mount System™ interface to make it easier to install and remove the mount arms.