Eaton Corp. is a worldwide corporation, a leader in power management solutions for a large spectrum of industries, ranging from aerospace to mining, to healthcare, to automotive.
Part of Eaton’s industrial sector, the Vehicle Group produces a large number of parts that improve the overall efficiency, performance and power of everything from passenger cars to commercial vehicles. In other words, Eaton needs to minimize the downtime on their manufacturing lines in order to keep up with the rapid iteration in vehicle design and the huge worldwide demand for spare parts. In addition to the mass production of tooling and fixtures, Eaton Corp. also manufactures custom solutions for customers around the globe.
The twofold solution that Eaton Corp needed was to:
- quickly re-tool manufacturing lines to reduce downtime
- develop and prototype custom parts for unique transportation challenges.
And this solution was possible due to Desktop Metal®’s Studio System™.
With the ability to quickly print a wide variety of tooling and fixtures – from a complex set of pneumatic jaws used in a gear chamfering process to relatively simple press tools – engineers were able to cut the lead time for tooling by more than 60 percent, from three to four weeks to just five to 10 days.
“One of the top benefits of the Studio System is the ability to produce the manufacturing devices we need at a lower cost and with greatly reduced lead times. It’s opening our minds to completely new design possibilities.”
— Alexandre Georgetti, Senior Manager – Manufacturing Strategy, Eaton Corporation
At the same time, the system has helped the company significantly reduce tooling and fixturing costs for mass-produced parts – depending on the size and design complexity, printed tools are, on average, between 40 and 80 percent less expensive.
In addition to tooling and fixturing for mass production, the Studio System™ also proved to be an ideal tool for producing custom fixturing. However, Desktop Metal®’s Studio System™ offered the third benefit: reverse engineering.
Using 3D scans of parts, Eaton engineers were able to reverse engineer models of several parts where drawings were not available and adapt existing designs for printing. Using the Studio System™, they were then able to produce replacement parts in just days – far faster than traditional manufacturing – allowing Eaton to return the equipment to service faster. The printed parts were also significantly cheaper – in some cases by more than 90 percent – than their traditionally manufactured counterparts.
This is a pneumatic jaw for a gear tooth chamfering machining operation.
Material: 17-4 PH Stainless Steel
This gripper is used to automatically load a gear hobbing machine so it can perform a gear chamfering operation.
Material: 17-4 PH Stainless Steel
The company chose to invest in the Studio System™ due to its ability to significantly reduce the cost and lead time to produce tooling and other parts, as well as its ease of use and office-friendly design. Since it uses no loose metal powders or dangerous lasers, operators don’t need personal protective equipment.
With the ability to address customer needs faster and iterate on parts quickly, the system is now a standard part of the workflow for both the Engineering and Tool Room teams and is used daily to support operations around the globe.
The system has become so successful that Eaton is now exploring the idea of investing in binder jetting technology for production parts.
Like any other manufacturer, Eaton faces a challenge in dealing with the replacement of maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) parts. As parts wear out or break, they must be replaced quickly to get manufacturing processes back up and running. Printing those parts allows Eaton to produce parts in days that would otherwise take weeks, reducing manufacturing downtime. This accelerated manufacturing lead time reduced part cost, and reduced logistical burden for Eaton’s employees which is essential to their MRO work, getting machines back up and running faster and more efficiently.
“Additive manufacturing is challenging our teams to think differently when designing or addressing an issue, opening different design possibilities, allowing us to address issues more quickly, and launching products faster by reducing the lead time needed to set up our internal manufacturing processes.
One of our Senior Engineers in this space said, “Before additive manufacturing I was afraid to fail, after additive manufacturing if you fail it happens quickly and you can also correct the error more quickly.” — Alexandre Georgetti, Senior Manager – Manufacturing Strategy, Eaton Corporation