catWhenever I hear the name Caterpillar Inc., I think of my grandfather, who worked there before I was born. The manufacturing company has been around for more than 90 years, and while it still remains a powerful player in construction, energy and infrastructure, Caterpillar has changed quite a bit since my grandpa worked there. It had to, really – to remain viable, pretty much every manufacturing company has had to shift its way of doing things. Caterpillar has been integrating additive manufacturing into its operations for a couple of years, and this week the company announced that it will be pursuing the technology even more aggressively through a new partnership with FIT AG.

logoFIT AG, which is based in Germany but also has headquarters in Boston, has been providing additive manufacturing and rapid prototyping services for more than two decades. The corporation, whose subsidiaries include FIT Prototyping GmbH and FIT Production GmbH, is the former parent company of netfabb, which was acquired by Autodesk in 2015. Through the terms of the new agreement, FIT AG will help Caterpillar to focus on designing and additively manufacturing parts in titanium and aluminum.

“We are thrilled to enter into a strategic alliance with Caterpillar,” said Carl Fruth, CEO of FIT AG. “Caterpillar is a world leader in many markets, which will benefit greatly from additive manufacturing. However, this requires innovative technologies and new thinking combined with experience and deep know-how. Our companies complement each other with their respective strengths.”

The partnership will boost the work being done at Caterpillar’s Additive Manufacturing Factory, which opened in December 2015 in Mossville, Illinois. The facility was set up for two main purposes: for employees to be able to learn additive manufacturing skills, and also to serve as a miniature production facility.

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Inside Caterpillar’s Additive Manufacturing Factory

“Caterpillar has a long history of creating innovative products designed to fit the needs of our customers and entering into a strategic alliance with a leader in additive manufacturing will help further that tradition,” said Stacey DelVecchio, Caterpillar Additive Manufacturing Project Manager. “Not only will Caterpillar now have access to FIT AG’s cutting-edge technologies in additive manufacturing but this alliance will also help accelerate our adoption of 3-D printing.”

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Caterpillar discusses its additive manufacturing success at the Benesch 3D Printing Conference in 2016. [Image: Clare Scott for 3DPrint.com]

Caterpillar already owns more than 80 3D printers and has amassed a portfolio of successful case studies involving 3D printed parts and satisfied customers. I have little doubt that the company’s willingness to adopt advanced manufacturing technologies is a key part of why it’s still the world leader in construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, gas turbines and more – and the fact that Caterpillar is further pursuing the technology with the help of FIT AG shows that the team there credits a lot of its continuing success to additive manufacturing as well.

The strategic alliance between Caterpillar and FIT AG will have an initial three-year term, and will possibly be extended further at the end of that time, depending on how successful it is. Discuss in the Caterpillar forum at 3DPB.com.

 

 

 

 

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