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The State of 3D Printing in Industrial Goods, Part One

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As we have explored some niche industrial sectors, such as agricultural and heavy equipment manufacturers, we’ve learned that, while most of the leading companies in the sector use 3D printing for prototyping and design purposes, they are only now beginning to dip their feet into making parts via additive manufacturing (AM). The same seems to be true of those corporations involved in producing industrial goods.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the largest players in the space and explore how they are using AM for industrial goods. Then, we’ll follow this story up with an article on the suppliers in the sector.

Before we get to that, it’ll be necessary to give a bit of definition to “industrial goods”. This blurry concept is a sort of catch-all for manufacturers that don’t fit into clear-cut categories such as aerospace, weapons, oil and gas, automotive, consumer goods, medical and dental and maritime. Broadly speaking, the industrial goods sector sells equipment and parts used to make other goods. Think drill bits, manufacturing equipment, and contract production.

The industrial goods sector may not be as far along in adopting AM for the manufacturing of end parts as the aerospace industry, but it seems to be more mature than the agricultural and heavy machinery fields (which are often lumped under industrial goods, as well).

Emerson Electric is a multinational, Fortune 500 company that makes parts and provides engineering services across a wide number of industries. The corporation is currently using AM primarily for prototyping and design iteration, which Emerson claims has reduced their product design and development time by 85 percent. The company also provides a service for original equipment manufacturers (OEM) to have 3D printed microfluidic valve assemblies rapidly produced with stereolithography (SLA) for customers to perform form and fit testing.

However, in 2016, Emerson also launched a new additive manufacturing center in Singapore, through a partnership with the Singapore Economic Development Board and Nanyang Technological University, that aims to make AM a production-worthy technology for the company. The center will work on 3D printing valve and automation components with greater speed and flexibility than possible with traditional manufacturing techniques. This comes three years after launching an AM program in Iowa.

This pump was cast from a 3D-printed sand mold. Image courtesy of Xylem.

Xylem is a water technology provider for commercial and industrial customers, among other industries. In 2019, the company announced its end part made with 3D printing, the Flygt N3069 stainless steel submersible pump. To produce the Flygt N3069 pump customized for each client, Xylem’s facility in Emmaboda, Sweden, 3D prints one-off sand molds with which to cast the final steel part, which, according to the company, reduces lead times by up to 75 percent.

Parker Hannifin Corporation is a U.S. company focused on manufacturing motion and control technologies. In 2017, Parker opened an AM facility at Corporate Technology Ventures facility in Macedonia, Ohio to study how the technology can be used for design purposes.

KOMET GROUP, out of Germany, is a precision cutting tool supplier that began working with Renishaw in 2017 to 3D print Poly-Crystalline Diamond screw-in milling cutters that feature four more blades that previously possible, a greater axis angle and shortened grooves that increase the feed rate by 50 percent. The paths for coolant channels have also been optimized.

Alaska General Seafoods is using ExOne’s binder jetting process provided by 3DX Industries to 3D print metal replacement parts for its seafood canning line. Karry Lattig of Alaska General reported that the printed parts worked as well as traditionally made parts despite the harsh environment in which they operated under high use for two full seasons. And because they were 3D printed on-demand, the company did not have to shut down operations in order to remove and replace worn parts.

 

A coolant clamp 3D printed by Sandvik for Seco Tools. Image courtesy of Sandvik.

Seco Tools is a large Swedish manufacturer of metal cutting tools which has begun 3D printing end parts. Specifically, its Jetstream Integrated coolant clamps have been 3D printed so to include internal coolant channels optimized for turning applications. The clamp is attached to the cutting edge of a turning head, allowing coolant to flow through it and cool the edge. It is also easier to handle, making making it easier to apply and remove, thus reducing downtime.

The part was produced by Sandvik, Swedish machine tool manufacturer Sandvik. While the company could fit into the next part of our series on 3D printing suppliers, given its role as a 3D printing service bureau (and metal powder producer), it also uses AM to make its own parts. Its CoroMill 390 milling cutter was optimized with AM, resulting in an 80 percent reduction in weight and a 50 to 200 percent increase in productivity, as well as less part vibration.

In the next installment in our series, we’ll take a look at suppliers of 3D printing for the industrial sector, including service providers and 3D printer manufacturers.

Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.

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