How Wärtsilä Made the First 3D Printed CE-Certified Lifting Tool
As 3D printing continues to revolutionise global manufacturing, Irish companies are recognising how the technology can transform both their supply chains and their processes. While 3D printing is not necessarily a new phenomenon, recent technological advances have made stakeholders across Ireland, and indeed the world, sit up and take notice of the benefits available to companies.
The advantages of 3D printing begin right at the start of the design process, with peak performance available through unparalleled design freedom. Furthermore, this design freedom is achieved in a way that is significantly more cost effective than traditional manufacturing, allowing invaluable flexibility to meet modern manufacturing requirements. As a market leader in the supply of 3D printers in Ireland, 3D Technology Ltd. founder James Wall is seeing a significant increase in demand for 3D printing services amongst Irish companies.
“More than ever we are being contacted by businesses seeking to learn more about the process of 3D printing and how it can benefit their business. Without exception these businesses are surprised to learn the extent to which 3D printing is now the norm across global manufacturing.”
In addition to the benefits of design accuracy and shorter lead times, 3D printing is also driving significant cost savings for companies around the globe, including marine and technology leaders Wartsila.
Wärtsilä is a global leader in smart technologies and complete lifecycle solutions for the marine and energy markets, with a portfolio of products that spans from engines to propulsion and renewable solutions.
The Finnish factory in Vaasa and Italian factory in Trieste oversee the manufacturing of large engines that power a third of the world’s largest cargo ships. The teams often need to fabricate tools to solve problems and optimize the efficiency of both the field and factories, and usually have to rely on third-party suppliers to manufacture them.
To interface with the complex features of their engines, many of the tools have unique mating features. Wärtsilä usually machines its lifting tools out of solid steel, but found the resulting tools to be too expensive, too time-intensive to manufacture, and too heavy for people to use and transport. The teams are also unable to make quick design changes when needed. Each cost and weight increase has a significant impact when scaled across hundreds of tools — especially when the tool is needed to service or perform maintenance on parts in a large commercial ship where space is limited.
Engineers at Wärtsilä had been using Markforged carbon fibre 3D printers since mid-2018 to solve similar problems, and had already made several tools for their factories. The Trieste and Vaasa teams decided they wanted to expand to a larger and more industrial printer to increase throughput, so they purchased an Industrial Series X7 printer for their Italian facility.
Working alongside Markforged, they redesigned the lifting tool for additive manufacturing. The new design included splitting the tool into a number of parts to best leverage continuous carbon fibre reinforcement and enabled the lifting tool to lift a 240 kilogram engine piston on the first try.
Wärtsilä’s embracement of additive manufacturing has already more than paid off, with the additive manufacturing team estimating that in just eight months they have saved over €100,000 in tooling alone, which they believe can scale with more Markforged printers in more facilities around the world.
With three Markforged carbon fibre printers, and now a Metal X 3D printer capable of printing in various industrial metals, Wärtsilä is far from done when it comes to adopting an additive manufacturing approach to solving problems. From tool holders and measuring tools to customer-facing production parts, engineers are now empowered to search for new 3D printed applications all around the production floor.
“If we want another tool for production, with a specific customer design, it’s not four to six weeks like it was conventionally, but it’s now really a couple of days,” said Giuseppe. “We are able to answer the need and fulfill the need faster.”
To learn more about the potential benefits of 3D printing for your business contact 3D Technology Ltd. in Galway today via their website www.3dtechnology.ie