It was a pleasure to have Andy Storm, president and CEO of Eckhart, sharing his company’s extraordinarily extensive work applying 3D printing to tooling applications at the ARC Industry Forum in Orlando, Fla., this past week. The theme of the conference was driving digital transformation in industry, and additive manufacturing is certainly having a very tangible impact on how Eckhart engineers industrial solutions that improve the effectiveness of production lines while enhancing operator safety.
One of Storm’s key messages is that additive manufacturing is a significant journey. “You don’t buy a 3D printer, wake up the next day, and begin designing and printing additive solutions,” he says. So looking for some simple wins can help the organization gain confidence and experience as it begins to “think additively.”
Everything Eckhart does with 3D printing revolves around aiding in one or more of three benefits: quality, productivity, and safety/ergonomics for operators. In fact, those pillars are arguably at the core of any factory around the world.
Here’s a look at three tooling solutions Eckhart developed using Stratasys FDM 3D printing technology, with comments from Andy Storm:
“This particular tool we developed with Stratasys technology to eliminate rework while installing a brake pedal under the dashboard of an automobile. The 3D printed tool provides a consistent and fixed position for the assembler to positively locate the pedal in the correct position every time. The tool also holds the pedal in the correct orientation so the assembler can secure it without having to hold the pedal at the same time the fastener is being tightened. Imagine trying to position the clutch and brake and getting them to mount correctly for safe operation. With an additive based assembly aid like this, it snaps into place. The tool allows the operator to repeatedly slide the pedal into position every time with very little effort.”
Surrogate Components for Cell TryOut
“When tasked with doing first article tests on newly commissioned production lines, it is often challenging to get big OEM customers to share surrogate parts. In the absence of waiting weeks for parts, with additive manufacturing, you can get the 3D math model from the OEM customer, 3D print the part and run off the system, instead of having to wait.”
Wiper Install Tool
“Here’s a wiper install tool. If you’re the assembler, it’s an ergonomic nightmare to install a wiper blade onto the new vehicle entering your station every 45 seconds. To help one of our OEM customers, we partnered with Stratasys to develop a 3D printed jig that locates off the motor body of the wiper and allows the operator to suction the tool to the vehicle’s windshield. This establishes a firm, fixed location for the assembler to consistently install the wiper blade onto the wiper motor, eliminating rework and quality issues downstream.”