Eaton’s Vehicle Group supplies transmissions, clutches, supercharger products and more to automotive and commercial vehicle manufacturers around the world. The company has installed metal 3D printing equipment at its Kings Mountain, N.C. facility, with a global deployment of polymer 3D printing technology set to be completed by Q1 of 2021. It represents a significant part of Eaton’s Industry 4.0 strategy, which will look to carry on the work commenced earlier this year to reduce development time and improve efficiency.
Eaton’s new 3D printing programme comes months after the company announced its use of ‘Industry 4.0’ technologies to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. This application of digital technologies enabled Eaton to ‘continue to support our operations remotely and continue the development of new products, ensuring our customer deadlines are met despite the global challenges we are all facing,’ per João Faria, President of Eaton’s Vehicle Group.
Through these efforts, the company also began to implement additive manufacturing to design and produce tools, poke-yokes and gauges with shorter lead times and reduced costs. Using an EOS M290 platform and a Concept Laser M2 UP1 system, Eaton successfully additive manufactured aerospace components – like the oil fill nozzle above – in aluminium and stainless steel materials, while Carbon’s Digital Light Synthesis technology was leveraged to produce parts like urethane methacrylate (UMA) impellers.
As it prepares to rollout 3D printing technology further, Eaton has outlined the potential to use less material by changing and consolidating designs, as well as its capability to tackle more complex shapes, as key reasons for its investment. Eaton is now said to be targeting high-quality fixtures, safety devices, automation grippers for assembly and handling, and replacement maintenance components as suitable applications for its 3D printing equipment. The company will also deploy the technology to develop prototypes and move through product development trials more quickly.