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Cast In Motion – From Manual to Digital Tooling for Composite (Case Study)

Updated: Feb 21

The customer

Lyons Industries is a family-owned business that produces bath products - showers and bathtubs. Established in 1968 and based in Dowagiac, Michigan, the company manufactures more than 1,500 bathtubs and showers daily, with dozens of unique designs.

With the increasing demand for their products, the company has developed different types of manufacturing techniques for producing small-to-large products according to specific requirements. Today, the company sells its products across the USA.

Lyons Industries Management Team. Image source - Lyons Industries Inc.

The challenge

Manufacturing a variety of products in the most efficient and cost-effective way has always driven the Lyons team, especially when it involves a slow and labor-intensive process. One of the most popular products the company manufactures is bathtubs. Producing a single bathtub, from the design to final product, includes several steps:

  • Designing the bathtub

  • Creating a master - usually from a wood or model board

  • Creating a composite mold out of the master – a manual and labor-intensive process

  • Making fixtures for holding the part in place – up to 3 are required for each mold

  • Robotic coating of fiberglass and polyester resin

Completing these steps for a single bathtub takes up to 120 days for most molds.

The traditional technique of manufacturing bathtubs. Image source - Lyons Industries Inc.

Recently Lyons decided to explore additive manufacturing to better understand how it can shorten the process, making it more efficient to answer the ever-changing problems that are difficult to solve with traditional technologies.

The solution

Lyons has always shown strong interest in new technologies that can improve the manufacturing process, as well as the quality of their products. While looking for suitable AM solutions, the new Cast In Motion (CIM) technology developed by Massivit 3D caught their eyes. CIM is the core technology of the Massivit 10000 additive manufacturing system which combines ultra-fast, digital manufacturing with high-performance thermoset materials to enable automated tooling for composites. The goal was to examine how it can transform a long and manual process into a digital one.

After examining the Massivit 10000’s capabilities, the following process was created:

  • Design a bathtub in two parts to fit the Massivit 3D printer

  • 3D print the molds with CIM 500 - high-performance casting material

  • Heat treatment to achieve optimized material properties

  • Remove the shell by soaking the parts in water

  • Assemble the two parts into a single bath mold

  • Polish the mold, drill vacuum holes, and install vacuum system

  • Complete the manufacturing process of the bathtub

The bathtub manufacturing process with Massivit 3D’s CIM technology. Image source – Massivit Ltd.

By making the mold faster with Massivit 3D’s CIM technology, Lyons was able to reduce the total manufacturing time of a bathtub from 120 days to less than 30 days.

The result? Lightning-speed product development and manufacturing, faster delivery of final products to the market, increased throughput and revenues, and a higher potential market share. Lyons has also noticed an additional important advantage: creativity. Using Additive Manufacturing enables the team to plan and design future products with complicated geometries that were not possible before.

Ready-to-use bathtub mold after polishing. Image source – Massivit Ltd.

The Future

Additive Manufacturing offers a new way to produce products as a complementary technique to traditional methods. One of the greatest advantages of integrating a digital manufacturing process is the ability to overcome the familiar boundaries of existing techniques, enabling manufacturers to think more broadly and in a bolder manner. In the case of Lyons, it allows the design of new and exciting products that can position the company as an innovative and competitive force in the market.

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