Schneider Electric SE is a French multinational corporation that specializes in the distribution of electricity, automation management, and producing the necessary installation components for the management of that energy. Schneider’s interest in helping others manage their energy efficiently is part of the company’s dedication to the very idea. And as such, they quickly recognized the potential that 3D printing held for further advancing their goals in that area.
As part of their efforts to streamline their processes, and to create the factory of the future, they have teamed up with Stratasys to incorporate 3D printing into operations in Grenoble, France. This comes after having used the technology already for several years as part of their prototyping process. The machines they have chosen are a combination of PolyJet and FDM printers suitable for things such as injection molding, assembly line tooling, and the development of products and prototypes. All of this is incorporated into the factory’s very own internal model shop known as Openlab.
With plans in place to launch 400 new products this year — a breathtaking rate of more than one per day — the speed of 3D printing is a major draw factor towards the technology. The manager of Schneider Electric’s mechanical design and engineering department, Yann Sittarame, explained the impact the integration of 3D printers into the company’s workflow:
“We are increasingly using 3D printing to design and engineer assembly line tools for validation- thereby saving time in the production of the final tools. This technology has changed the way we work and changes the way we think about doing things in the future. Looking ahead, we plan to 3D print the final tools, which is perfectly achievable given the accuracy and durability of our 3D printing process.”
The benefits are felt throughout the company and Vice President of GSC Transformation-Industrialization Sylavin Gire touts the improvements the technology has made in the timeline necessary for production, but notes that it’s not only speed that is provided through 3D printing, but significant financial benefits as well. While it used to cost as much as 1,000 euros to produce a single aluminum injection mold, the company can now create them with 3D printing for approximately 100 euros per mold. This leaves Schneider Electric very enthusiastic about the possibilities provided by the tech, as Gire described:
“We’re witnessing an astronomical cost-saving from 3D printing injection molds, but we’ve also drastically cut the time taken to produce them, so we’re looking at a win-win every time. Manufacturing the prototype molds in aluminum necessitates – in some cases – a lead time of as much as two months, but with Stratasys’ 3D printing solutions, the whole process is completed within a week. That’s a roughly 90% time savings, which would be unfathomable with any other technology.”
With these kinds of time and cost savings, there’s no question that this will be the direction for the factories of the future. And it’s already happening. Discuss further in the Schneider Electric & 3D Printing forum over at 3DPB.com.[Source: Stratasys]
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