American manufacturer Polaris has been tapping on additive manufacturing with Stratasys 3D printing technology for over 20 years to power innovation and streamline every-day manufacturing on the factory floor, and this has helped them to reduce lead time and overall costs.
Based in Minnesota, Polaris is commonly known for producing high-quality snowmobiles, off-road vehicles, and motorcycles. Since their founding some 65 years ago starting with the production of their first snowmobile, Polaris has continued creating new products and innovate with times.
With so much hands-on assembly and different styles of tooling on the manufacturing floor, Polaris has had to think of solutions to solve every-day problems that their workers face.
By partnering with Stratasys and their technology in-house, Polaris is able to iterate on new tooling designs with anything from regular, hard plastic 3D printing materials, to newer more innovative materials.
3D printing allows Polaris to come up with a design, test, improve, and repeat the process until they get to a good final product. This is particularly useful for complex parts – badging, headdresses, things of that nature that are installed for their bikes. With 3D printing being able to accommodate complex geometries and in a variety of materials, Polaris is able to derive a lot of flexibility in designing.
Bikes have a lot of chrome and painted parts which have to withstand strict cosmetic standards to meet customers’ requirements, so this is where Stratasys’s Elastomer material comes in perfectly. The Elastomer material is soft enough to not cause any damage but yet durable enough to withstand the harsh and rough assembly manufacturing environment.
One example is the rear fender tip locator where the production quality guards replace the leather and vacuum formed parts which were time-consuming to produce. Prototype tooling costs are inevitable but Polaris has managed to reduce those costs significantly and time with Stratasys technology.
Instead of waiting for 8 – 12 weeks, Polaris is able to get designs using 3D printing within 24 hours. This additional gain in time allows the design team to get in more iterations before kicking off production.
Another example was designing a new interior cup holder for a vehicle. 3D printing allowed Polaris to see the overall integration into the interior quicker, and test them out physically.
The quality of industrial-grade 3D printers and materials have allowed Polaris to get a good part – the first time, every time. The long-term partnership has also seen Polaris get early exposure to new materials which is very helpful, such as the Elastomer material. In a way, 3D printing has allowed Polaris has opened their eyes to applications that they would not have previously considered.