The brand new John Deere tractors rolling off the manufacturing line in Mannheim, Germany, have a primary for the corporate: a steel 3D-printed engine half.
The worldwide producer of agricultural and turf tools is not any stranger to 3D printing, having used it for greater than 20 years to make 1000’s of prototypes, instruments, jigs, and fixtures throughout its world factories. However the 3D-printed stainless-steel valve within the tractor’s gas system is a brand new course and a part of what the corporate calls its Good Industrial Technique.
Launched in 2020, John Deere introduced its imaginative and prescient to quickly combine new applied sciences in three focus areas: manufacturing methods, their know-how stack, and lifecycle options.
3D printing is a part of this imaginative and prescient, and this valve is one among its first fruits. It’s extra environment friendly than if it had been historically manufactured. It’s about 50% cheaper and considerably smaller, utilizing much less materials. However that is simply scratching the floor of why John Deere selected to 3D print this half.
The First of Many 3D Printed Elements
The brand new thermal diverter valve on the most recent variations of John Deere 6R and 6M tractors isn’t simply an progressive utility of more and more accessible steel 3D printing know-how, it’s the end result of about two years of R&D.
It began with a problem to make sure John Deere tractors would carry out in chilly environments. Engineers had been tasked with growing a valve that might preserve gas temperatures with out affecting engine efficiency.
“First, you begin with what you need the half to do,” says Udo Scheff, engineering director for John Deere’s small and midsize tractors, “and work by optimizing the computational fluid dynamics and simulate it within the digital world, then you definately switch that into digital designs for a prototype mannequin.”
The idealized prototype mannequin, the one that allow the gas circulation with the best effectivity, had rounded, easy inside channels. A function, Scheff says, is barely doable to create with 3D printing.
“In fluid dynamics, when you might have two drill holes which might be intersecting, you at all times have sharp corners when you use machining instruments. With 3D printing, you possibly can have spherical corners, which is the ingredient that introduced us one other step up in optimization of the valve.”
To check if the half would work as anticipated, engineers at John Deere labored with additive manufacturing workers at Germany’s GKN Additive (Forecast 3D), a digital producer of steel components and supplies, to additional optimize the design of the gas valve for steel 3D printing. GKN printed prototype valves in metal on the brand new steel 3D printer from HP
The thermal diverter valve underwent rigorous testing so as to make sure the required pipe high quality, which is the same as machined or funding solid steel. Discipline testing of the half was additionally successful.
“So that is the purpose the place we needed to resolve how we had been going to fabricate this half to satisfy the fabric property and different necessities,” says Scheff, who additionally needed to contemplate his tight deadline for this half, how a lot tooling would value, and the way the half would slot in the meeting workflow.
“And that is once we determined, okay, if this 3D-printed half works in assessments and the additive manufacturing is cost-efficient, then it can work in manufacturing as properly,” says Scheff.
Creating prototypes in the identical materials and technique that will likely be used for the ultimate manufacturing half provides engineers higher assurances of efficiency. “We selected the steel jet course of from HP as a result of it’s a lot sooner than different steel 3D printing processes,” provides Jochen Müller, John Deere’s world digital engineering supervisor. “We’re discovering alternatives to ship extra environment friendly, dependable, and sustainable tools, and HP supplied us the proper resolution for that.”
Steel 3D Printing at Manufacturing Volumes
Presently, greater than 4,000 valves are being shipped from GKN to the John Deere tractor manufacturing unit for closing meeting at a worth per half that’s lower than forging or milling. Tractors with this 3D-printed half are already within the area, actually.
Müller says one other advantage of 3D printing this specific half as a substitute of utilizing conventional strategies, is added agility within the manufacturing course of. As a result of 3D printing doesn’t require molds or instruments, half prototypes had been sooner and cheaper to create, which accelerated the design course of. The design could be tweaked and improved at any time. Plus, in the case of alternative components, no standing stock is critical. The digital file of this worth could be despatched to any third-party producer with HP Steel Jet know-how and produced comparatively regionally and shortly.
Though a whole digital stock of restore and spare components for present and legacy John Deer tools continues to be a distant future mission, the corporate already sees the potential advantages.
“We now have an enormous spare half group that may be very, very involved in 3D printing,” says Müller. Already, the corporate is considering which and what number of spare components could be transformed to 3D-printable digital recordsdata, which might remove warehousing. “Normally, we now have spare components in inventory for roughly 20 years, generally even longer, and it’s very arduous to foretell what to do with the out there inventory and easy methods to replenish inventory when you run out.”
Past 3D printing spare components on demand, Müller envisions a future the place John Deere can analyze worn-out or damaged components and 3D print customized components which might be strengthened for particular person use circumstances.
3D Printing Confirmed Via Prototyping
John Deere, like many manufacturing and automotive corporations, started 3D printing of their engineering lab with polymer design prototypes of components and automobile ideas.
The corporate shortly discovered that having bodily fashions to deal with, match, and examine to present components are invaluable within the design section. “Folks from the meeting line can verify whether or not your idea half is possible from a producing perspective,” notes Scheff.
These prototypes are extra environment friendly and and considerably sooner than machining or carving out of wooden, which was one of many methods used earlier than John Deere began 3D printing in 2000.
“Our inside 3D printing capabilities permit our designers to simply check their concepts and confirm their ideas at a really early stage inside the improvement course of,” provides Müller. “It’s a ‘fail early’ kind of mindset. We wish to carry all ideas to the ground as bodily fashions and have numerous teams collectively so as to come out with the fitting idea. So 3D printing and additive manufacturing, typically, empowers us to try this.”
The thermal diverting valve is simply the primary of many 3D-printed tractor components to return.
3D Printing Manufacturing facility Jigs & Instruments
3D printers are present in virtually each John Deere manufacturing unit worldwide churning out fixtures and manufacturing unit instruments 24/7. Scheff says there’s nonetheless conventional manufacturing going down as a result of 3D printing can’t exchange all the pieces, however in the case of components with distinctive contours or particular tooling, 3D printing is the tactic of selection.
Manufacturing facility fixtures are virtually at all times distinctive to a manufacturing unit line and costly to machine in small portions. To facilitate 3D printing these components, John Deere established a world community of 3D printers with completely different printer applied sciences at varied areas and bigger factories serve the wants of the smaller factories.
In each John Deere manufacturing unit, the manufacturing engineering division, which is tasked with discovering probably the most environment friendly manufacturing processes, proposes new instruments and determines if they’re finest made with additive or conventional applied sciences. Then, Müller’s digital engineering group develops the digital fashions which might be despatched again to the manufacturing unit to 3D print or outsource to a neighborhood 3D printing service.
From prototypes by to closing elements, instruments, and spare components, 3D printing is one among John Deere’s main property in its quest to be a extra digital and agile group, says Müller. It allows engineers to develop ideas from concept to bodily half sooner by fast prototyping components, and now, with its newest mission, to carry extra environment friendly engine components to market sooner and cheaper.