One of today’s newest technologies helps re-invent one of the oldest industrial techniques in the manufacturing of heavy machinery and tools.
Article excerpt from the Design World January 2020 issue by Leslie Langnau.
At JC Steele (a global leader in stiff extrusion machinery and solutions for customers in heavy clay, iron and steel, ferro alloys, and gypsum/wallboard) large-format Additive Manufacturing (AM) has been paired with traditional sand casting. The company uses a BigRep ONE 3D printer to develop, test and create the patterns needed for sand casting molds.
By implementing large-format AM, JC Steele is optimizing design, development and patterning. As a result, the company has achieved a 75% cost reduction and a 50% faster time-to-production cycle. “Introducing AM into our production has greatly improved our operations,” says JC Steele’s Pattern Shop Supervisor, Chris Watts. “We have streamlined our workflow by eliminating those parts of the design process that are the longest, most fault-prone and expensive – the manual designing of a pattern, the interpretation of design drawings and the management of reductive waste.”
In the past, sand casting patterns had to be designed and created perfectly the very first time – as they could take up to a month to be recreated by hand in case of the slightest error, resulting in a longer time to market and higher costs. Introducing 3D printing to the production process has made it possible to develop and test multiple options to find the best-fit solutions. Using the BigRep ONE, JC Steele engineers easily design and test parts that can be quickly installed and removed, printing multiple designs of complex parts that vary in crucial differences (i.e. thickness), to assess the optimal design before expensive patterning and foundry processes begin.
“For many clients in core manufacturing industries, large-format 3D printing has become an integral part of their business,” says BigRep Managing Director, Martin Back. “Our 3D printers are not replacing but complementing other more traditional technologies, improving overall operations and making manufacturing more efficient.”
With the addition of large-format additive, JC Steele has created 60 new patterns in just a year. This increase in production requires their BigRep ONE to be running 24/7 with operators checking in on weekends to verify progress and change filament.
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