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.