In keeping with our Quality Policy and our dedication to Continuous Improvement, Bodine Electric’s manufacturing and engineering teams joined forces in 2013 to identify and source a 3D printing solution that fits our needs.
The creation of physical prototypes of new castings or moldings or any new part has traditionally been a challenge in the machine shop or tool room because some cast features simply cannot be duplicated. Although stereo-lithography (3D printing) has been around for some time it was fairly expensive to create a part, materials were severely limited and the equipment to produce them was in the $100,000 range. Advances in technology have decreased the size and reduced the cost substantially to allow our joint team to specify and purchase a 3D printer by mid-2013.
This machine takes modeling input from SolidWorks and creates 3D models as large as 410 cubic inches (about the displacement of a ‘69 Corvette V-8) with a layer resolution of .0039”. Three materials are available for modeling, PLA which is a thermoplastic aliphatic polyesteris, PVA which is Polyvinyl alcohol, and ABS which is acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, all these are available in a wide assortment of colors.
We began using this new technology in our manufacturing operations to create fixtures for assembly that closely fit our products to facilitate elimination of torque reaction during fastener driving, while incorporating mistake proofing features where applicable and feasible. Then we moved on to the creation of ball bearing installation fixtures and seal expanders for prototypes and new custom gearmotor designs. Other areas of manufacturing productivity improvements were to design and “print” fixtures to directly aid in easing product assembly and in process storage of wound armatures.
From using this new machine initially for simple manufacturing fixtures and tools, our engineering and R&D team now manufacture many new parts for custom-built OEM designs and prototypes. Examples are new motor front- and rear end shields, gear housing covers and motor adaptors. Other parts we “printed” are custom encoder covers, new terminal-box designs, Hall Effect device holders for our brushless DC motors and a new 24A motor shield with IP-44 lead exit capability.The photos in this article show some parts that we manufactured in house, as well as one part that was printed by an outside supplier. This new technology provides our engineering and manufacturing teams with a tool that enhanced speed to market, allows for rapid prototyping and brings new manufacturing processes faster up to speed. Our customers benefit from it with shorter lead-times and greater productivity during the product development process.
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