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Manufacturing With 3D Printers

Manufacturing With 3D Printers

Back in 2015, 3D printing was the new upcoming technology that would revolutionize every aspect of our lives! From printing food to printing a new couch in 24 hours from home, the possibilities of 3D printing seemed endless. In fact, 3D printing was invented in the late 1980’s by an American named Charles Hull, so it’s been around for a while.

Today where do we actually use this technology?

Today 3D printing has been implemented in many industries such as the Space industry, Aircraft industry, Jewelry industry, Health industry and so on. Many manufacturing companies are now using 3D printing as a part of their manufacturing line to create complex parts easily and at lower cost. The term “additive manufacturing” is used when referring to 3D printing in industrial processes. There are multiple types of technologies in 3D printing, but we won’t be discussing those today.

What would motivate a big manufacturing company to change their mainstream, proven, manufacturing methods to work with a technology that hasn’t made its proof yet?

The answer is simple, INNOVATION.

Metso, a Sweden valve manufacturing company, uses 3D printing to manufacture complex valve parts with a huge success so far.

Metso understood back in 2015 that 3D printing could revolutionize the way we manufacture valves.

In fact, additive manufacturing can reduce valve noise and improve valve performance. It can ensure that there is no anomaly in the valve parts that can create noise or interfere with the flow path. Each part is smooth and precisely printed. For example, attenuation trim designs are restricted due to the limitations of the conventional manufacturing methods and costs. With 3D printing, we can now create more complex flow path designs for attenuation trims without overly affecting the end-user cost. Those more complex flow parts could be produced with conventional manufacturing methods, but the cost and complexity of the process would skyrocket.

Additive manufacturing opens the door to a new era in valve production. Now for each unique process characteristic, 

we can create a flow path to match the uniqueness of the process. This means that we can now create customizable valve parts to fit every process requirement and more complex parts to optimize the flow path and finally optimize the overall plant productivity. With a 3D printer, we can print spare parts for specific valves anytime, anywhere. This will also increase the plant productivity by reducing downtime and allows companies to reduce the size of their spare part inventory. This means that if a valve breaks unexpectantly, we can now print the spare part in 30 minutes and then perform the maintenance. The plant is up and running in less than an hour.

Industrial valve cutaways are widely used in industrial presentations or shows to demonstrate the valve principles as well as show the inside parts of the valve. They are usually expensive and manufactured with aluminium which makes them relatively heavy (40 to 60 pounds per valve) and costly to ship! With additive manufacturing, demonstration valves (cutaway valves) can now be presented in a complete model with no need to cut the valve to see the inside since the body of the valve is transparent and allows us to see the inside parts of the valve and the principle of operation. Also, the demonstration valve now weighs 5 pounds each depending on the material in which they are printed. However, Metso does not use 3D printing to manufacture their demonstration valves yet as they rather focus on using additive manufacturing to manufacture small and complex parts.

In short, 3D printing allows us to create complex and customizable parts with ease but compared to conventional techniques, printing generic parts with a 3D printer would result in a higher cost of production. However, additive manufacturing allows the valve industry to fulfill custom orders faster and easier while making research and development simple and less time consuming!