With a population of over 1.3 billion, the homegrown consumer market in China is one of the largest in the world. Increasing purchasing power within China during past two decades has created a huge market for consumer products. Qingdao Haier Mold Co. is keeping its competitive edge by using 3D printing to prototype and test designs in order to accelerate product delivery.
For the past three years, design teams in Qingdao Haier Mold’s headquarters in Shandong (other subsidiaries of the Haier Group sell on six continents) have relied on a Fortus 900mc 3D Printer from Stratasys as an integral part of the design cycle for the company’s indispensable consumer “white goods.” These include washing machines, air conditioners and refrigerators.
Multiple Iterations in 24 Hours
The capabilities of the Fortus 900mc 3D Printer have cut the prototyping time by up to 69% over traditional methods such as CNC machining. This allows design teams at Qingdao Haier Mold to improve product designs by creating multiple iterations in a single day – leveraging overnight 3D printing – for three-dimensional design comparisons.
“3D printing has helped us gain a competitive advantage in the household appliances industry by enabling us to create concept models and functional parts for design validation with minimal time and cost,” explained Zhu Mingju, Project Manager from Haier Molds. “Instead of waiting for two days to produce a washing machine component, it now takes only six hours to produce the same part using the Fortus 3D Printer. This is a huge benefit as it speeds up our product launch schedule and capitalize on market opportunities.”
Mock-Ups Score at Product Expos
Another important role of Qingdao Haier mold’s 3D printing capabilities is to make precise models for functional testing of parts. 3D printing on the Fortus 900mc 3D Printer using durable ABS-M30 enables the testing of crucial parts including drums, balance rings and drain valves for a range of the company’s consumer appliances, where exact geometric matches are an absolute requirement.
Design mockups and models can also play a role at consumer product expos, where industry professionals and consumers are able to see the newest advancements. Zhu described the popularity of a miniature washing machine that was 3D printed for a show: “[It] was the highlight of our displays, especially when it spun like a real washing machine. Our customers were amazed, and that resulted in subsequent purchases.”
The Future is Now
Regular use of the Fortus 900mc 3D Printer at Qingdao Haier Mold Co. for design models and functional testing is part of the company’s competitive edge in a crowded consumer marketplace. The company is also exploring the applications of 3D printing in small-scale, tailor-made mold productions to handle clients’ urgent requests.
“3D printing has enabled us to gain more competitive advantages in the household appliances industry. We are excited to explore the new horizons the technology will take us to in the near future,” Zhu concluded.