One of the challenges faced by many companies is sourcing machine spare parts. Such parts can be costly because they are often small-batch orders that a customer requires quickly and often unexpectedly. These types of parts are not prioritized in traditional manufacturing shops. And prices are often high because prints do not exist or are difficult to locate, especially when a supplier has gone out of business.
When you deal with large automotive and industrial equipment manufacturers, re-creating these spare parts and prompt delivery of them is a key to keeping customers happy. Such capabilities help global subtractive solutions leader PSMI (Production Services Management Inc.), Saline, MI, USA operate tool cribs in more than 250 industrial manufacturing sites worldwide.
To keep up with demand, PSMI created a wholly owned subsidiary, Azoth.
Azoth identified a solution to these challenges using additive manufacturing. “We have a void in our supply chain and we really see additive manufacturing helping to fill that void,” said Scott Burk, President of PSMI. “The void exists for customers that need special one-off parts that the traditional tool and die shop would charge a lot of money for because they need to strip down and rebuild a machine to make those parts. Those usually take six to eight weeks or more in lead time, and the price is usually exorbitant.”
Following a comprehensive review of industrial 3D printers, PSMI selected RIZE as its first technology partner. Within three months, the Azoth team was supplying parts made of RIZIUM to its existing customers.
“Production staff are always trying to put out a fire when a line goes down due to a part failure,” said Scott. “In many cases, these widgets are so important that if one breaks, it can send an entire factory home. But now, using RIZE additive manufacturing technology, we can manufacture a range of parts for that facility on demand. Having RIZE 3D printers on site can mean the difference between having a one-off or small-batch part available in eight hours vs. eight weeks for machined parts.”
Scott added, “Using RIZE 3D printers this way enables us to add more value for our customers and become more valuable to them. Right now, someone comes to one of our cribs wanting something and we have to begin the ordering process. With RIZE, not only can we provide the part faster, it gives us an opportunity to work with our customers on site to optimize the design of specialty and custom components. We’re completely changing the concept of the supply crib.”
Scott and his team selected the RIZE ONE 3D printer primarily for its safe process and materials that enable it to be used in customer plants, most of whom have strict safety and compliance standards. And, given that RIZE ONE is PSMI’s first 3D printer, they were also impressed with how simple and easy it is to learn and operate compared to other systems. RIZE also enables customers to get a part in hand 50% faster than other additive manufacturing systems to keep the plant running due to minimal post-processing following printing.
The 3D printer’s ability to produce accurate, complex parts with exceptional Z-strength, low moisture absorption and high chemical resistance means it can be used for a range of functional applications in customers’ plants and to produce parts that can’t be manufactured by machining.
Another capability of RIZE 3D printers is ink marking, which enables users to print part numbers, instructions, logos and even QR/bar codes on parts for traceability, authenticity and compliance.
Said Scott, “Today’s process for finding a legacy part is going into an archive to try to find the part information. Then, we make sure that part information is correct and reverse engineer it with a tool and die shop because the company that made the machine and its spare part is long gone. With a QR code embedded within the 3D printed part, I can scan that part and know every little detail, what iteration it is, when the last time we made it was, etc. All of that can be easily put on that QR code. Now, that information is never lost.”
Azoth engineers design and reverse engineer a range of functional service parts, from kitting trays and pulleys to molds, tooling and machine spares. For example:
Torque gun holder
A pulley in an air spindle gage bench failed at one of Azoth’s industrial manufacturing customers. Rather than find a supplier for this difficult-to-replace component and face a leadtime of 6 weeks, Azoth printed a fully functional replacement pulley on their RIZE ONE 3D printer in less than a day, quickly restoring the air spindle gage bench to operation. Azoth improved the part to mitigate failure and, since there is no value to stocking spares, Azoth can cut inventory costs for their customer by printing the part on demand.
Azoth designed gripper fingers for part moving to streamline production at one of their aerospace customer’s plants. The 3D printed gripper fingers included part orientation detail and neodymium magnets pressed into the parts to assist in the location of the detail. Using RIZE ONE, Azoth reduced the cost of the part by 50% and can deliver the part quickly enough to reduce the stocking quantity to one piece.