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Supply Chain News: Perhaps Surprisingly, OH Foundry Benefitting from 3D Printing

 

Approach Transformed the US Castings Industry, with Dramatic Increases in Speed of Delivery

Sept. 23, 2020
SCDigest Editorial Staff

So-called 3D printing, sometimes referred to as additive manufacturing, is still very early in its evolution, using a laser-like process to turn powered plastic, metallic and other materials into finished products.

If and when 3D printing goes mainstream, it will likely have a dramatic impact on manufacturing and supply chains.

Supply Chain Digest Says...

3D printing allows Humtown to produce novel designs that weren't possible to make with tooling. Now, the company can take full advantage of the creativity of their engineers.

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Applications have largely been around rapid prototyping and service parts, the latter allowing companies to create parts on-demand without the need to inventory hundreds or thousands of slow moving SKUs.

Use of additive manufacturing in a foundry would likely seem a not great fit, but that's exactly what one Ohio manufacturer is doing.

According to a recent blog on the web site of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), Humtown Products has been 3D printing journey started all the way back in 2014, very early in the technology's history.

Humtown uses 3D printers to create castings for engine blocks in cars, trucks, construction equipment and for aerospace products. Since then, Humtown has led an industry-wide transformation of metal casting by using the technology.

Traditionally, metal casting involves creating a tool or shape from materials such as plastic or wood, then packing sand tightly around the pattern to form a mold.

Liquid metal is then poured into the mold, creating the finished component.

However, Humtown is able to eliminate the tooling stage entirely, printing the sand mold through software commands instead.

The NAM article says that back in 2014, Brandon Lamoncha, now Director of Additive Manufacturing at Humtown Products, spent three years traveling to and from the University of Northern Iowa to study the technology, while also traveling to foundries around the country to spread the word about 3D printing. The university had one of the few expensive 3D printers around at the time, mostly used for prototyping.

The pitch to the sector: a new wave of technology was coming - and that if American foundries didn't embrace it they would be left behind the curve and possibly out of business.

"When we got into this game, you could count on one hand the number of 3D sand printers in North America. Now there's 40 or 50," Lamoncha says.


(Article Continued Below)

CATEGORY SPONSOR: SOFTEON

 

Humtown says it has found many benefits from 3D printing. They include:

Extreme Speed: Using traditional methods, it might take 18-20 weeks to develop the tooling to make a cylinder head for a customer's car. Now, Humtown can receive the data it needs on a Friday, run their printers over the weekend and start pouring metals on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Efficiency: A lot of machining involves subtractive technology; for example, you might take a hunk of aluminum, carve out what you need and discard what you don't. With 3-D printing technology, Humtown is using additive manufacturing instead: they're starting with nothing, and building only the things they need.

Better Results: The technology allows the metal casting industry to make parts that were once too complicated to make using conventional processes. For example, complex volutes for pumps were made in sections in the past, but 3D printing allows the parts to be made all together.

Flexibility: 3D printing allows Humtown to produce novel designs that weren't possible to make with tooling. Now, the company can take full advantage of the creativity of their engineers.

Six years ago, 3D printing was used in less than 2% of sales at Humtown. Today that number has risen to 40-50%, with the price of the printers having fallen dramatically.

For its innovation, Humtown will be recognized at the Manufacturing Leadership Awards event in October.


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