3D Printing Plugs a Problem

Superior Metal Products had a problem with chips and coolant being shot back through tube material it was machining on a bar-fed CNC turning center. The solution to plug the back end of the tubes was a 3D printed device.


Facebook Share Icon LinkedIn Share Icon Twitter Share Icon Share by EMail icon Print Icon

Superior Metal Products, profiled in this story about robotic automation, has designed this unique plug to prevent chips and coolant from shooting back through the tube and into the bar feeder while turning DOM tubing. “We struggled to find a solution that offered push-point consistency for the bar feeder and positive sealing for the various tube IDs we run,” Mr. O’Connor explains. “Tapered plugs tend to dislodge and leak, and care must be taken to ensure the plug end is perpendicular to the tube. Otherwise, push rod droop or tube orientation can cause push length variation.”

The plug features a 3D printed threaded knob, expander and nut (all are printed at the same time), as well as an appropriately sized O-ring. Once inserted into the end of a bar and tightened, it provides an effective seal and consistent push point that is perpendicular to the tube. The shop has a base plug design and simply modifies the sealing diameters depending on the tube ID and prints. It’s not a problem if a plug gets lost. 3D printing replacements is not costly.

3d printed part

When asked what spurred the shop to look into 3D printing, Mr. O’Connor commented it was Modern Machine Shop’s inaugural Top Shops Conference in 2017. “After seeing presentations about this technology, we knew we need an excuse to get into it,” he says.