Profile Rail Wiper-FEATURE

3D Printing Manufacturing Aids with 3D Platform

Overview – 3D Printing Manufacturing Aids for Smarter Production

A manufacturing aid is a device, platform, tool, jig, or fixture used to enhance, accelerate, perfect, or fix a manufacturing or assembly production. Manufacturing aids range from simple guides to complex fixtures with multiple functions. Traditionally, manufacturing aids are produced by tooling, which may have excessive labor costs and often extensive lead times. In contrast, using 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) to produce manufacturing aids does not require excessive labor and extensive lead time, resulting in significantly lower cost and flexibility. 3D printing is a truly simple, fast, and inexpensive solution for producing low-volume, customized manufacturing aids.

Take this 3D printed Profile Rail Wiper as an example, it is designed to keep steel chips off the rail while helping retain oil and lubrication in the rail bearings. 3D printed on the 3D Platform large format 3D printer with PLA material, this simple manufacturing aid effectively extends the 5-axis vertical mill’s lifespan by keeping the steel chips off the rail and bearing system.

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Project at a Glance

The Challenge

  • The industrial steel rail cutting machine has a built-in rail surface wiper that pushes big steel chips off the rail surfaces, but it fails to catch smaller pieces that can be caught in between the rail and the ball bearing system. This can cause the ball bearing system to fail prematurely, and halt the steel rail cutting machine completely. In addition, the coolant and DTE oil used in the system corrode the built-in wiper quickly, which requires frequent wiper check-ups and replacements, adding additional labor and replacement part costs.

The Solution

  • Having access to 3D modeling software and 3D Platform’s industrial strength, large format 3D printer, the engineer decided to design, and 3D print an add-on wiper that fits tightly on the rail, thus able to push even the smallest steel chips off the rail surface. Choosing the right material for this project was crucial, for the part needed to perform and last well in the harsh environment. After soaking samples of PLA, ABS, and NinjaFlex materials in the coolant and DTE oil for 48 hours, the PLA material stood out as the best material choice for this project. Not only for its ability to 3D print quickly and easily, but the PLA material also showed no signs of corrosion after the test.


  • Designing the profile rail wiper turned out to be more challenging than 3D printing the part. The engineer went through almost eight design iterations in order to fit the profile rail’s unique ridge design on the sides. Within only one day, the engineer was able to quickly tweak the design, 3D print the design, and test run the 3D printed piece on the machine until it was perfectly fitted.
  • Project Timeline & Cost
    • The entire project finished within two days.
    • Each rail wiper takes 20 minutes to print. Using PLA material, it costs $0.2 cost per piece, a +500% saving in cost compared with traditional tooling.

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