Mar 17, 2017 | By David

Dutch logistics company Vanderlande has taken advantage of 3D printing technology to demonstrate its vision for the warehouse of the future. In order to help a client, multinational supermarket chain Albert Heijn, with plans for a new automated system that would revolutionize its main Dutch distribution center, Vanderlande used a 3D printed scale model of the building. The model was produced to an incredibly high level of detail, by 3D printing experts Materialise.

The organization of a warehouse for a supermarket is no easy task, with a huge range of different products in need of storage and distribution. Albert Heijn is the largest supermarket chain in the Netherlands, and its warehouse in Zaandam, located next to the main company headquarters, serves nearly a thousand stores across the country. Vanderlande was enlisted to help make this warehouse run as efficiently as possible, making use of the possibilities presented by automated logistics. A scale model of the building and the warehouse floor, showing all the intricacies of the new system that was to be introduced, was a key part of Vanderlande’s pitch and strategy, and 3D printing technology allowed this replica to be produced to an impressively high standard.

Materialise is experienced in applying 3D technology for a huge range of uses, for clients across all industries and sectors. They were the obvious choice for this project, according to Albert Heijn representative Hilbert Roukema. '‘In choosing Materialise, we went for the partner who could support us at each stage’’, he says, ‘’from engineering and file preparation to finishing and assembly.’’

Vanderlande’s design team created a complex virtual model of the Albert Heijn warehouse, with details of its various planned modifications and improvements included, and sent this to Materialise. The team at Materialise then set about preparing this huge CAD file- with four different layers and hundreds of small parts- for the process of 3D printing.

Materialise’s Magics software was used to slice up the file and convert the initial design data into a model ready to be 3D printed, pushing the Build processor to its limit, but these products were up to the task . The print job was then carried out in stages, using a couple of different 3D printing methods. The large build sizes and excellent surface quality offered by stereolithography meant that this was used to make most of the parts, but laser sintering was also used to render some of the finer details of the model. Final touches were added to the project before its presentation, and the assembly included transparent Plexiglas surfaces being used to separate different floors of the building, so the whole of the warehouse could be seen at-a-glance.

Materialise’s scale model now takes pride of place in the very Albert Heijn distribution center that it so faithfully represents. It is ideal for training purposes, as staff working in the warehouse can examine the detailed replica to get a clearer picture of the system that Vanderlande has put in place. Furthermore, visitors to the building will now be able to take a look at the model and see the exciting breakthroughs offered by logistics automation, and perhaps also appreciate for the first time just what 3D printing technology is capable of.




Posted in 3D Printing Application



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