King Agro, an international company and part of the John Deere Corp., is a leading manufacturer of agriculture spray booms. The self-propelled spraying equipment is resistant and durable, thanks to the use of 3D printing to create the testing jigs and fixtures.
The company works on improving the productivity of agricultural machines, relying on carbon fiber as a key material for the design. In the continuous effort to improve production efficiency and cut costs, the King Agro engineering team chose to adopt 3D printing to rapidly validate and manufacture a variety of parts that were previously outsourced.
The team made a list of models and parts to be manufactured, taking into consideration mechanical needs, materials to be used, previous manufacturing costs and lead time. 3D printing rapidly met the needs for flexibility and speed and easy implementation, all at an affordable cost.
King Agro’s engineering team chose to work with the Kodak 3D team, using the Kodak Portrait 3D Printer. The printer is easy to setup and uses engineering materials such as ABS, Nylon or Flex, offering reliable results with good tolerances.
Within the first ten days, engineers were able to use the printer to validate auxiliary tools, supports, jigs and prototype parts. Printed models were prepared and sliced using the Kodak 3D Slicer with its material pre-set settings. Given the ease of use and the included profiles, the engineers only needed to position the model and select the desired material profile.
The printer and its tools were successful in simplifying tasks and reducing times in the production of different models and parts.
One example of the team’s success is the manual drilling jig for the Safety and Quality Control Department. The jig is used to position holes for better accuracy in manual drilling operations. After the jig design was validated, it was 3d printed with the goal of reducing iteration time to 18 hrs. The 3D printed part proved to be a valid alternative for the metal part at a fraction of the original cost and manufacturing time.
The design concept was printed with PLA+. To further reduce cost and increase strength, the final part was printed in ABS. After validating the model and the dimensional accuracy the jig was immediately ready to be used in the production line.
During the first week of printer use, the team printed different kinds of parts to assist them in various tasks for the production line. These parts included:
–Accelerometer support for R&D. During weather tests, the support holds an accelerometer in place while resistance and durability are examined on different boom profiles. The top has a plain surface with mating holes and the bottom part has a V block to center the part to the boom profile. The part is used to replace the flat accelerometer base, provided by the sensor manufacturer.
Around 12 accelerometers can be mounted during the process and several changes may be necessary during tests. This makes this part ideal for 3D printing as it can be replicated several times, including changes, with almost no cost.
Proof of concept was validated with prototypes in PLA+. Final parts were printed in ABS, a polymer suitable for weathering and outdoor exposure testing.
–Laser holder for the Quality department. This part holds a laser pointer used to align parts during the production process. The team quickly designed and printed this part in Kodak ABS, saving the time and expense of machining.
Part holder for production. A CNC fixture to hold pieces in the same position as they are machined. The offset between the real piece and the fixture can be modified and adapted with almost no effort, making this print something useful in speeding up the production process.
Now 3D printing technology allows engineers at King Agro to print with advanced materials to create different kinds of jigs and fixtures. The engineering team devises new parts that could not be manufactured previously. Thanks to the Kodak Portrait 3D Printer, these engineering parts are available in a short time and at a competitive cost.