Caterpillar’s Deployment Strategy for Additive Manufacturing
A dedicated AM facility is helping the company discover the technology’s potential for design as well as production.
Design freedom is one reason to choose additive manufacturing, but it can also be a logistical solution. Heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar is looking at the technology from both angles, exploring how it can leverage AM to advance designs of new components but also to speed delivery on existing and legacy parts.
The fuel filter base above is one example. A component used in the engines of Caterpillar excavators and other products, the original aluminum alloy component would have been cast. “Would have been,” because the supplier is no longer operating. That means that to support aftermarket customers, Caterpillar would need a large minimum order to justify the tooling cost with a new casting supplier.
Laser melting offers an alternative to this scenario. A version of the part made with this technology offers the required functionality, but without the need for tooling or dealing with a new supplier. In this case, laser melting is also a much faster way to deliver this legacy part.
Caterpillar has recently opened an Additive Manufacturing Facility where it is exploring additive’s potential both in designing and producing parts. Read more about the company’s AM deployment strategy in this story.
Machining a large 3D-printed part for aerospace composite tooling is fundamentally different than manufacturing the part traditionally. Baker Industries knows this first-hand.
A hybrid system combining metal 3D printing with machining gives the Marine Corps perhaps its most effective resource yet for obtaining needed hardware in the field. It also offers an extreme version of the experience a machine shop might have in adding metal AM to its capabilities.
When Precision Metal Products purchased its first 3D printer last year, the company hoped to collapse both tooling costs and lead times. But the technology’s impact is reaching core business operations, enabling the shop to focus on higher-margin, lower-volume production.