The Light Green Machine Institute

11 Nov 15: Where to use that $999 3-D printer

I mentioned last week that the big box home improvement stores are selling 3-D printers, using plastic as the material, for $999.  Where to use them?  
Maintenance planning seems to be an obvious application, one you can use right now.
If you have a tricky maintenance outage coming up, one with tight quarters, tight time frame and lots of work in a small space, the 3-D printer can come in handy for planning.
Simply take your existing CAD drawing files and produce a scale model of the area of concern. Then, appropriate craft managers, operations managers and others can gather around this model and see what needs to be done, plan what the sequence of work will be and practice the activities well before they happen.
Years ago, my employer spent a great deal of money meticulously building 3-D models of every engineering project by hand.  They had decided 3-D models were superior to drawings and we spent huge amounts of money building these.
Today, this is quite simple, particularly if you just need to model a small area.
One area I think would be simple to model and invaluable for planning would be planned maintenance in tight quarters. Digesters and boilers come to mind as areas which could greatly benefit from this kind of planning tool.
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Comments from last week:
Hi, Brian
Where can we use 3-D printing?  Spare parts - especially those parts that wear.  The obstacle will be the materials required, as these parts consist of a host of different plastics, resins, Teflon™, and similar materials.  Just think of how much money could be saved by being able to "print" gaskets instead of keeping lockers full of gaskets in a huge variety of sizes, types, and materials!   Now, how do we get there?  Some of the materials are currently proprietary.  I'm sure that there are technical challenges with them as well.
Bill Adams
Sr. Technical Service Representative
ERCO Worldwide
You asked us about our ideas for additive manufacturing applications in the pulp and paper industry.  I have been following that technology with great interest, especially the jet engine fuel nozzle design that GE has been able to conceive without the restrictions of traditional subtractive CNC machine shop operations.
Just as the consumable fuel nozzle part is a great practical application for metal-based 3D printing, so would be the various spray nozzles that are used all over the mill, as well as screen baskets and pump impellers.  
On the plastic side, I think items like replacement cleaner cones would be excellent candidates, especially in cases where a new design could improve the operation of a cleaner system, but there might not be enough demand to justify making new molds.

Make it a GREAT day!
Chris Marchio
Staff Process Engineer, Mahrt Mill

As always, your comments will be appreciated.
Think light!


Brian Brogdon, Ph.D.
Executive Director




Jim Thompson

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or Jim Thompson!