The introduction of a new engine model had resulted in Caterpillar having to increase more assembly operations to install the fuel components.
The doubling of cycle time for a particular assembly step resulted in a drag on the production time and subsequently an inability to meet the desired engine production rate.
Engineers at Caterpillar thus proposed a solution to preassemble the fuel components separately from the engine production line. The pre-built components would then be placed on a custom holding rack so they could be installed later as a subassembly.
To validate the concept, engineers 3D printed the assembly rack’s parts to prototype the fit and perform a trial run of the subassembly operation.
Quickly prototyped with 3D printed parts, the assembly rack helped validate the effectiveness of preassembling the fuel components separate from the main production line.
With fuel component installation time reduced by approximately 40%, the fast turnaround promoted the acceptance of this particular solution because it could be quickly built and tested for validation.
This plan would however be unlikely to happen if the assembly rack was built using machined components because of the long lead times needed to fabricate them.
Problems inevitably occur in any manufacturing process, but Caterpillar has clearly identified 3D printing to be the quick catalyst in resolving them as they come along.
We hope you enjoyed the 3-part series on how Caterpillar’s experience with Stratasys FDM manufacturing solutions.