Dec 11, 2015 | By Alec
It’s no secret that Siemens is a big fan of 3D printing technology, as the German electrical engineering innovator has been investing in a remarkable number of startups, initiatives and programs involving 3D printing over the last few years. Earlier this year, they even launched the Frontier Partner Program to facilitate 3D printing startups. However until now, it was unclear to what extent they were working with the technology themselves. Fortunately, in an interview with Imaginables, they have just revealed that especially Ultimaker 3D printers are already an integral part of the Siemens workflow – especially for quickly prototyping parts.
Siemens, of course, is a giant in the electrical engineering world, and are especially known for developing new high tech applications. Trains, huge generators, biomedical equipment, it can all be found in the portfolio of the huge company that invests about $6 billion in research and development annually. That means a lot of steel part production, and as the Australian branch of Siemens recently revealed to Kae Woei Lim from Imaginables, Ultimaker 3D printers are quickly becoming indispensable.
Imaginables recently collaborated with Siemens at railway sector event AusRAIL, which provided the impetus for this reveal. For the event, Siemens required 3D printers, but couldn’t spare the ones currently in use – even for a few days. This prompted a talk with Siemens Rail Automation’s head of R&D Stephen Baker, who revealed that 3D printers are heavily in use already. At first, they were just being used to assist in prototyping of new parts. ‘But when we started using the Ultimaker we realised we could use it as part of the manufacturing process,’ he tells them.
From PLA to metal.
The Rail Automation division is currently, he went on to reveal, using it to even manufacture metal components. While traditionally using milling – a process that takes up to 16 weeks – they have since reduced that time to just two with the help of Ultimaker 3D printers. 3D printable CAD files are quickly designed and 3D printed, before being used for wax casting production in a specialized foundry in Sydney. During the firing, the PLA parts are completely burnt off, making it easy to cast a perfect steel part in little time at all. ‘So therefore we go from a 3D CAD model, to a 3D printed component, to the final metallic component without having to go through the normal process of manufacturing,’ he says. And aside from saving a lot of time, this production method is also less costly as it doesn’t require large machine investments every time.
As he further said, they are particularly satisfied with their choice of 3D printer. ‘We first looked at the market and web reviews, the basic spec was 8” build and sub 0.1mm resolution. After about three weeks of investigations, talking to suppliers, and getting samples printed from three shortlisted vendors, [the researchers] recommended the Ultimaker 2 as being the most suitable machine within our sub-$10k budget constraints, with what they believed would be a suitable level of local support,’ he says.
3D printing is thus heading for a bright future, at least at the Train Division of Siemens. Jamie McDyre, who heads the Freight and Products for the ASEAN Pacific region at Siemens, said that 3D printing enables them to take a completely new approach to production. ‘Siemens is moving away from just looking at the factory floor, into considering the whole value chain now. What that allows us to do, using 3D printing, is allow us to bring that process to our customers, and bring them into our design processes early on,’ he says. Furthermore, clients can be involved into the manufacturing process far earlier, when the models are just plastic prototypes – vastly streamlining the service.
Posted in 3D Printer Company
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yzorg wrote at 12/11/2015 1:36:18 PM:
Ultimaker Rulez :)