North American manufacturing firm Lyons Industries is leaning on 3D printing technology to produce bathtub moulds.

The company was founded in the 1960s as a manufacturer of plumbing vents, but now manufactures more than 1,000 bathtubs and showers a day.

In doing so, Lyons Industries has long been faced with complex product development workflows and lengthy lead times. The production of a single bathtub, from the design to final product, can be described as slow and labour-intensive. It includes creating a master from a wood or model board, then creating a composite mould out of that master, and also making fixtures (up to three per mould) to hold the part in place, which, all in, can take up to 120 days. 

These moulds are expensive, slow to build, wasteful, and require extensive manual skilled labour to be of the quality to enable the manufacture of bathtubs. A frustrating process, but a lot to content with for any alternative methods.

Lyons Industries was set up by the father and grandfather of current President Lance Lyons. The company has its roots in Southwest Michigan where it has been manufacturing products for 55 years. In setting up the business, the Lyons family developed a plumbing vent to replace the pipe that vented the plumbing gases through the roof of a mobile home, but soon expanded into other products like bathtubs and showers.


As the company went on the look out for alternate manufacturing processes that could tackle its bathtub moulds, it stumbled on upon Massivit 3D’s 10000-G additive manufacturing system. The 10000-G machine is designed specifically for the creation of moulds for composites, with materials such as the epoxy-based casting CIM 500 material offering full cross-linked molecular bonds between casting intervals.

According to Massivit, by printing an outside sacrificial pattern and casting the mould simultaneously, the 10000-G machine combines the digital workflow, speed and flexibility of 3D printed tooling with the ‘technical properties of a traditionally manufactured mould.’ Those technical properties include a high heat deflection temperature and a low coefficient of thermal expansion, meaning full molecular bonding occurs between casts and the moulds therefore expand evenly on all axes when placed in an oven allowing for better tolerances.

When deploying the Massivit 10000-G, Lyons Industries designed a bathtub in two parts and printed the outer sacrificial shell with the Dimengel water-breakable (WB) gel before the CIM 500 thermoset epoxy material was intermittently cast into the shell to form an isotropic mould. This process repeated itself until the final parts were created, with plain water being used to remove the sacrificial shell and leave the two parts that would make up a mould that would be used to thermoform the bathtub. After thermoforming, the bathtub is coated with fibreglass and polyester resin.

“Before receiving the Massivit 10000, we made moulds the old fashioned way which is off of a pattern. All in all, you’re looking at about 12 weeks,” commented Lance Lyons, President of Lyons Industries. “Now, with the Massivit 10000, we take a design, the same design that would go to the pattern, but now we feed it into the Massivit computer and it prints the mould. We don’t have to do any pattern work. We do have some finishing work to do afterwards, but it’s a fraction of the time and energy and cost that it was before.”

With the adoption of the Massivit 10000-G machine, Lyons Industries seen

The number of moulds kept in stock reduced.
90% of manual labour eliminated.
A 75% reduction in mould turnaround time.
No need to produce an initial plug or master.


Since deploying Massivit’s 10000-G machine, Lyons Industries has been able to manufacture bathtub moulds in as little as 30 days, compared to a previous 120. It has meant the company has been able to develop and deliver products to customers 75% quicker than when using traditional mould making methods.

Not only that, the 3D printing of moulds has taken some of the burden off a workforce in an environment that could always use an extra pair of hands. Manual labour is said to have been reduced by 90% since the introduction of the Massivit 10000-G, while by using Cast in Motion technology, the need to produce an initial plug or maser has been eliminated. Lyons also no longer needs to keep as much inventory as before and, since 3D printing is only using the material required to build the mould, finds it is disposing of less waste. The on-site manufacture of the moulds has also cut out a significant amount of transportation, while the cured sacrificial material and epoxy-based moulds can be disposed of as regular office waste or mechanically ground for reuse as fillers for new parts.

“For Lyons Industries, automation is everything for us to be able to grow and we think the Massivit 10000 fits in perfectly,” said Lyons. “It gets us to market much faster, it makes our support fixtures much faster, and requires fewer people. Lyons Industries’ future is very important. Partnering with Massivit, we believe that’s the game changer. We believe this relationship is going to take us to another level that we could only dream about.”



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