Caterpillar 3D prints replacement drill collets with a material cost of about $60?!

In this first of a three-part blog series on Caterpillar’s experience with Stratasys FDM Technology, we will take a look at how 3D printing helps the company avoid lengthy production delays when conventional tooling breaks down.

As the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives, Caterpillar has been an innovator in the use of FDM Technology to 3D print tools and other manufacturing aids to reduce cost and expedite production schedules.

The Cat® 3500 series engine.

During the production of the Caterpillar 3500-series engine, a drill collet used in a machining operation is sometimes damaged during tool changes. 

The lead time to obtain a replacement collet was four weeks and machining one in-house consumes three shifts over three working days.

While the cost to replace or machine a new collet is approximately $700 to $1000, the lost production time waiting for the replacement can actually cost significantly more.

3D printed drill collet produced with ABS-M30 material.

To minimize the delay and cost impact, Caterpillar engineers 3D printed replacement collets with ABS-M30 thermoplastic material using a Fortus 450mc 3D printer.

This solution bypasses traditional supply chain time constraints involved with ordering a replacement or machining one in-house, which ties up internal resources.

The 3D printed drill collet took four hours to produce with a material cost of about $60.

More telling however is the 83% lead-time savings over in-house machining and a 98% time savings compared to supplier-furnished replacements.

As a result, Caterpillar now keeps several spare 3D printed collets on-hand as quick replacements when they’re needed.

Stay tuned for the next post on how a 3D printed check fixture reduced repetitive rework on the Caterpillar production line.

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