Method series Method XL

IME Automation Boosts Manufacturing Efficiency with 3D Printing

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Bennie Sham

March 5, 2024

IME Automation is a fast-growing company that designs and builds custom automated robotics solutions for manufacturers. With a focus on precision, efficiency, and innovation, IME Automation integrated 3D printing and the UltiMaker Method X and Method XL 3D printers into its operations, revolutionizing its approach to solving challenges and catering to customers’ needs. The ability to effortlessly test and create a range of applications in-house have made the company more agile and flexible in its manufacturing processes. IME Automation has been able to produce numerous parts for its systems, including jigs, fixtures, and end of arm tooling.

IME Sparky 1

IME Automation's Sparky robotics system

Minimizing hassles and maximizing success with UltiMaker 3D printers

Facing the challenges of expensive and time-consuming traditional prototyping and production methods, Wright recognized the potential of 3D printing to streamline manufacturing operations and drive cost-effective solutions. While the company has traditional machining equipment, Wright needed something that would allow them to R&D ideas and iterate on designs quickly.

Before Wright bought his first 3D printer, he and his team used the MakerBot Sketch 3D printers at the local libraries. As the demand for their robotics solutions increased, so did their use of 3D printing. Wright recognized they needed something more robust, and they needed it in-house.

After some additional exploration, Wright landed on the UltiMaker Method X 3D printer.

I wanted something that offered quality, reliability, and ease of use. I didn’t want my engineers to spend their time tinkering with the settings just to get a print right. We didn’t have a big budget and we couldn’t justify an industrial printer, which is expensive to buy and maintain. There was only one printer on the market that I found that matched our criteria and that was the Method X.


Unlike traditional industrial printers, Method X offers plug-and-play functionality, empowering engineers to focus on their projects rather than troubleshooting. The platform is intuitive and easy enough to use without constant maintenance and technical training.

Wright and his team began to seamlessly integrate Method X into their workflows, utilizing its robust capabilities for rapid prototyping, R&D, and even end-use production parts. As the company’s operations expanded and the team grew, from two to nine engineers, they began to explore more applications for their projects.

IME Sparky close up IME tray
3D-printed pneumatic end effectors, packaging jig, and tray used in Sparky. The parts are covered in epoxy to allow for a smoother surface finish and to reduce any potential issues during the process

Traditional ways of splitting designs for smaller build areas posed challenges in assembly and design complexity. Recognizing this limitation, Wright embraced the Method XL 3D printer, which offered a larger build volume than the Method X, and did not require additional training. Method XL enabled IME Automation to realize large designs in a single piece, streamlining assembly and reducing engineering overhead.

IME six point case holder IME Sunwarrior
A 3D-printed six point case holder used in a packaging plant at Sunwarrior, an IME Automation customer

IME Automation tests a variety of parts in ABS to ensure its robotics solutions deliver exceptional results for customers, and some of the final designs have ended up on its robotic systems. For certain applications, printing with strong and durable materials like ABS can yield similar results to injection molded parts. ABS 3D printing offers greater flexibility in design, enabling the creation of intricate geometries, and is more economical and efficient. The material’s durability and strength make it suitable for a variety of applications, from prototypes to functional parts, ensuring reliability and longevity in automated systems like IME Automation’s Sparky robotics platform.

Wright leverages the remote capabilities of UltiMaker CloudPrint to print, manage, and monitor his print jobs. “We can just upload our files straight to CloudPrint, and print from there,” continued Wright. “A lot of the time, we just send a part to the printers at night or over the weekend. That’s the best time to print because it’s not holding anyone up.” The printers are all equipped with an onboard camera, allowing the team to check in on their prints when they’re not in the facility.

IME Methods

The Method XL and Method X 3D printers

Achieving ROI with 3D Printing

IME Automation's strategic investment in Method X and Method XL 3D printers has enabled them to drive sustained growth in a competitive market. As they continue to harness the full potential of 3D printing, IME Automation advances towards a more agile, efficient, and sustainable future in manufacturing.

"We push for efficiency here," said Wright. "We try to do what’s right for the company and for our customers. Our three 3D printers are running between 80% and 90% of the time, whereas our CNC mill may not even run 5% of the time. Between the extra costs of the materials and components for the CNC mill and the amount of time to program and monitor it, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to use when we’re just doing some R&D or iterating on a design."

Wright encourages companies like his to embrace 3D printing.

"For anybody that's doing a lot of custom design, a lot of prototyping, or a lot of oddball shapes and sizes of parts that they're using in a facility, 3D printing might be a really powerful tool for them–helping them be more efficient, helping keep costs under control, helping them be more profitable," he noted.

Wright concluded,

The advantages of the Method X series have been fantastic. The ability to have our engineers send parts directly to the printers and not have to fiddle with settings. The affordability of those printers. 3D printing, generally, is fantastic for companies like ours, but for our company the Method X and the Method XL have been probably the best, by far, that we could have done.

IME Sparky 3

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