In many industries, you can find parts and products that production relies on heavily, parts that are critical to keeping an operation up and running. Whether it’s parts of heavy equipment, machinery, buses, or trucks – when these parts are out of service the costs are heavy. Just one non-functioning part can paralyze an entire production line, delay shipments or time-sensitive tasks such as harvesting. As part of our #AMapplication series, bringing the spotlight to AM applications that are in use today, this installation will look at these lesser-known AM workhorses, and how they can help maintain productivity.
In the Harshest Conditions
First on our list of workhorses are parts that need to withstand harsh conditions. Metso, for example, additively manufactured parts for a valve which is used for a demanding gas treatment application, where it needs to withstand a long period of use with no maintenance (above). Another example is the AM components for hydraulic valves manufactured by Aidro (below). Oil hydraulics require materials that have strength and corrosion resistance in order to withstand the high pressure as well as for safety reasons. In these cases, AM parts are manufactured specifically for harsh conditions, whether it’s by using specialty materials or improved geometry such as cooling channels that prevent overheating. This is relevant in a very wide range of industries, in oil and gas (mentioned above) and in aerospace (the harshest conditions), as in the SIS injector additively manufactured by SMS Group – a part of electric arc furnaces, with a burner capacity of 300 kilowatts (2nd below).
The Life Span and Productivity of the Workhorse
Even if the conditions are not considered harsh, the life span of the part or product is critical, the longer a part lasts the better. Stopping for maintenance or for replacing parts multiple times can have a direct effect on the bottom line. Seco Tools, a manufacturer of metal cutting tools, has been additively manufacturing tools with cooling channels such as the Jetstream Integrated coolant clamps used in turning applications. Coolant flowing threw the cooling channels prevents the tool from overheating which improves productivity as well as extends the life span of the tool. It also makes it easier to connect and remove which reduces downtime. Another example is the CoroMill 390 additively manufactured by Sandvik (up top). The milling cutter was optimized and additively manufactured for improved productivity. The weight was reduced by 80% without affecting its strength which resulted in reducing the vibrations, according to the company, increasing customer productivity by 50–200%.
When there is no choice and a part needs to be replaced, ideally, companies strive to do so in a minimal amount of time. Every minute counts in production, and an idle production line can be costly. But keeping inventory of all the parts that can break is costly as well. This is where AM replacement parts come in. Volvo Construction Equipment, for example, is additively manufacturing spare parts for its machinery (above). This is also true in transportation and shipping. Trucks, buses, and trains are vehicles that need to adhere to certain deadlines and timetables. These vehicles spend a significant amount of time on the road (or rail), they have a long life span but as in anything that’s in service for so long, parts are bound to break. That’s why companies such as Daimler, Deutsche Bahn, and Angel Trains are now producing AM spare parts (below 3D printed grab handle produced by Angel Trains ESG Rail and Stratasys).
In the Field
There are some replacement parts that are hard or even impossible to find, rendering an entire machine useless. Agriculture equipment is usually used repeatedly over the course of decades. In many instances when a part needs to be replaced it is hard to obtain or even worse, obsolete. In agriculture timing is everything, a non-operational machine during harvesting season not only delays the operation but can damage a year’s worth of work. Caterpillar, for example, is working on additively manufactured spare parts (below a 3D printed metal part for heavy equipment – image courtesy of Caterpillar).
Workhorse is a broad term, covering many industries. What ties them all together is their importance as part of an entire operation. The AM workhorse can be a critical part that can withstand high temperatures or even just a replacement handle (at the end of the day, a truck can be out of service just for a broken shift handle). In both cases, AM can help increase productivity and keep operations running smoothly.
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