Stiff extrusion machinery manufacturer J.C. Steele & Sons has realised a 50% increase in time-to-production capabilities with the implementation of a large format 3D printer.
The company has reported a 75% reduction in costs for the creation of sand casting moulds since installing a BigRep ONE 3D printer. The investment has enabled the company to develop and test 60 new patterns in under a year while redefining its production process.
“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 ones – the manual designing of a pattern, the interpretation of design drawings and the management of reductive waste.”
Previously, the creation of a sand casting pattern by hand could take up to a month, resulting in a longer time to market and higher production costs. Using 3D printing, JC Steele is now able to create and test the most optimal designs before expensive patterning and foundry processes take place.
“As far as comparing plastic to wood, it’s just as durable in sand casting and our other applications,” says Watts. “But the possibilities are endless as to what we can achieve with a plastic-printed part.”
J.C. Steele has also been using the printer to manufacture obsolete parts. The company is now printing spare parts in house and exploring printing of jigs, fixtures and tooling, particularly for new machines where investing in hard tools upfront can be time and cost prohibitive.
“For many clients in core manufacturing industries, large-format 3D printing has now 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.“