Category Archives: manufacturing

40 Years of HARBEC: Part 1

1977-1987… The Barn.

 As we are now in our 40th year, we will devote one blog per quarter to each decade we have been in existence. Harbec started in two garages, belonging to Bob Bechtold and his brother Mike, in the village of Webster, NY. In the first few years they were both working full time jobs and the new business part was on the side. The majority of the work was odds and ends of machining work for friends who had machine shops, along with buying and repairing/rebuilding used machine tools. The money from these side jobs they did allowed them to buy more machines.

In the late 70’s, Bob found a farm on the edge of Webster that had magnificent barns and a house and in 1980 he was able to buy it. The space that the new barns provided was just what they needed to get serious about the business, but not without significant preparation. The reason that farm had been for sale was that it was a pig farm and the county was not allowing any more of them. So the last pig farm in Monroe County became the new home of Harbec, but not without a ton of work.

In 1982, Bob decided to leave his full time teaching job at Rochester Institute of Technology, to work at Harbec full time. His original intention was to have himself doing the work with part-time help. That did not work out as he thought it would because he could not get a consistent flow of work and a consistent flow of money for his family. When he was doing jobs for people, there were no new sales happening. Then, when the job was done he would have to find more opportunities, therefore no work was getting done, this meant no income. Bob recalls, “It was either feast or famine which definitely is not conducive to paying bills and raising kids.”

Eventually, Bob hired his first full-time employees, two young toolmakers from the area. Then, within a couple of years, they were up to 6 or 8 full and part-time people. They were able to build technical capabilities and equipment, as well as expand their customer base and the types of work they did.

They did some unusual work in those days including building two 20’ long cabbage harvesting machines that were nicknamed the ‘Head Masters’, for a local farmer. They were pulled along during the harvest and the pickers would set the heads on a conveyor near the ground where they were picking and automatically lift them up into the wooden boxes. Another thing they did during those early days was to mount a TIG welder in an old van and go to the area beer distributors to repair the rips and tears in their aluminum bodied delivery trucks (from the fork trucks loading and unloading the beer barrels and cases). They also had a full wood working shop and were doing pattern making for the local foundries. They continued to do this kind of work for a number of years, even after they moved to the current location. Unfortunately, this was the time when foundry work was moving overseas and eventually there was little or no pattern making work left.

Bob explains, “The skills used in pattern making are similar to those used in model making, so as the pattern work dried up, we replaced it with a new line of business. We got more and more involved in model making and were able to apply the precision and complex capabilities of the CNC to this work. It allowed us to become very competent at creating engineering models or models that were expected to be as close to production intent as was possible. This means the material type, dimensions, and all other characteristics had to be as exact as if they came from the injection or die-cast molding process.” This line of business was ready to take off and will be covered in the next decade’s blog.

The most significant job during this first decade was the ‘Glass Hubs’.  During this period of time, the most high-tech computer memory was magnetic tape and a local company had a very high end product that was a glass sided tape reel that held one mile of tape. The reels were about 14” in diameter and two glass side discs were mounted to a precision aluminum hub. The hub was a die casting that Harbec would precision machine to the required tolerances. The accuracy of these was critical because if there was the slightest error, the tape would eventually get off center, then would not wind or unwind correctly.

While these were interesting and varied work types, the main goal Bob was trying to accomplish since starting the business, was to get involved in CNC machining. Bob had taught the subject when he was at RIT/NTID and through that experience, became convinced that this new technology would be the most dynamic opportunity for the advancement of manufacturing ever to happen. The biggest problem he had to overcome was that the machines were very expensive.

As you might imagine, it was difficult to convince a bank that Harbec was a good risk for a loan when they were asking for a very expensive, very accurate, very state of the art (at that time) machine, to put in a barn. Eventually they built the business and their bankability enough to get their first equipment loan for their first CNC milling machine. With this new capability in precision and complexity, Harbec was able to look for new areas of business to apply them to. One of these new areas was mold making, which required high precision and finishes. At the time, there were not many mold building shops that had CNC machines. They were able to eventually work their way into this line of business by doing complex mold details for other local mold shops.

“One of the really neat early mold details we did was to cut the cavity blocks for a new type of computer memory that was unknown at the time. During the early days of the personal computers there were two types of computers, Apple or PC. Both used a memory device called a floppy disk. Harbec was involved in a very confidential project where they cut the mold cavity blocks for…what was eventually to become the 3.5” memory disk. If you were to open one of those “three-and-a-halfs” you would notice fine ribs and shapes that contained and guided the spinning magnetic disk inside. The first mold details to create the prototypes of this new media were cut in the barn at Harbec,” remembers Bob.

There were many other interesting and diverse things they did in those days, and eventually they out grew the barn and needed to find a bigger home. In 1987, they moved to the current location, to begin the second decade of Harbec’s history. The barn continued to offer a birth place to other businesses including CNC Systems which Mike and Bob started, so that they could pool their talents and interests to get involved in this exciting new CNC industry. There was also a welding company that started in the same barns and an optics manufacturing company that became known as Optimax.

While work was not consistent in the early days, the vision and dedication to creating the business was. Bob and Mike Bechtold took chances, explored uncharted territory and embraced diverse potentials. They were good at not just finding, but creating opportunities. These are the things that would continue to allow Harbec to grow into the business it is today.

Beyond Proof of Concept: How HARBEC Brings Design, Engineering and Manufacturing Value to Every Part and Project

In September, HARBEC, Inc. proudly celebrates its 39th year in business. We begin by thanking our employees, some who have been with us since day one, for continually evolving, and building a better business and better future in our community. We also graciously thank our customers, suppliers, and service providers who have been mutual partners in HARBEC’s evolution.

For a company that began as a tool and die shop, a great deal has changed in nearly four decades of service. HARBEC’s business resiliency has been enabled by its founder, Bob Bechtold, and the code of conduct for continuous improvement he’s instilled within the business culture. In forty years of business, HARBEC has remained agile, competitive and innovative as it has evolved to serve the needs of its customers, new and old.

Today, HARBEC, Inc. has three principle business units including CNC Machining, Custom Injection Molding, and Rapid Prototyping. Since its inception HARBEC was a trusted precision manufacturer, earning a reputation for paying very close attention to detail, and providing high value service, quality, and superior prototypes and parts. Further, HARBEC was viewed by its customers as a “solutions provider,” a partner that proactively pursued ways to do things faster, better, and at lower cost.That commitment is alive today, particularly as the digital revolution transforms the foundation by which products are designed, developed, and manufactured.

According to Mr. David Anderson, author of “Design for Manufacturability: How to Use Concurrent Engineering to Rapidly Develop Low-Cost, High-Quality Products for Lean Production”,  Design for manufacturability (DFM) is “the process of proactively designing products to (1) optimize all the manufacturing functions: fabrication, assembly, test, procurement, shipping, delivery, service, and repair, and (2) assure the best cost, quality, reliability, regulatory compliance, safety, time-to-market, and customer satisfaction.” Further, Mr. Anderson defines Concurrent Engineering as “the practice of concurrently developing products and their manufacturing processes. If existing processes are to be utilized, then the product must be designed for these processes. If new processes are to be utilized, then the product and the process must be developed concurrently.”

Here at HARBEC, we’ve been practicing DFM and concurrent engineering for decades. Under our own branded nomenclature, Quick Manufacturing Solutions (QMS). Before the ‘maker movement’ became en vogue, characterized by the next generation of industrial designers and inventors, HARBEC was actively servicing its customers as an innovation, DFM, and production house. Like the agile maker movement, HARBEC has embraced digital and software tools, 3D printing, machine learning, and robotics into our operations. What’s more, HARBEC has continuously moved the ticker on innovation, working to improve every process, from design through manufacturing, by integrating our knowledge and experience gathered from forty years of manufacturing excellence.

Over the years HARBEC has developed and implemented new manufacturing processes, and integrated new software, technology, and manufacturing capabilities that allow our designers, engineers, project managers, and operators the ability to design, prototype, sample, and scale products with exemplary attention to precision, speed, quality, and cost.

While HARBEC does a great deal of mid-to-high volume parts manufacturing of custom injection molded and precision machined parts, we’ve invested in and created a specialty for in-house design and rapid prototyping services. Whether your need is one or millions of parts, HARBEC’s team can support your product design, development and manufacturing needs, and deliver upon your goals through a full range of manufacturing capabilities.

 

Design/Engineering Support

Prototype/Production Capabilities

Systems-Level Integration

 3D CAD: SolidWorks 2016

Injection Molding Simulation: SolidWorks Plastics 2016(Flow, Pack, and Warp Analysis)

FEA Software: SolidWorks Simulation

CAM: Mastercam 2017

3D Printing: Materialise Magics

Additive Manufacturing

  • Stereolithography (SLA)
  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
  • Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)
  • Fused Disposition Modeling (FDM)

Quick Molding Solutions (QMS)

  • Aluminum molds using standard bases
  • Dedicated sampling technicians and presses

CNC

  • High-speed 3 to 5 axis vertical mills
  • Horizontal lathes
  • EDM & Grinding
Carbon-Neutral and Water-Neutral Manufacturing Facility

Robotics and automation

Full in-house capabilities from design through manufacturing, secondary operations and support

  • Product design, prototyping, and manufacturing have each gone digital. The lines between these once disparate silos of product development have been blurred by rapid advancements in digital manufacturing technologies. As the worlds of software and hardware have converged, designers have now become manufacturers, and machine operators have become code writers. This fundamental change is reshaping the future of manufacturing for businesses like HARBEC, and for small and large manufacturers throughout the world.
  • More rapid development and integration of digital manufacturing technologies are reducing, and in some cases eliminating, traditional barriers for transforming an idea into a physical product. Digital manufacturing bridges the technical and communication gaps between designers and manufacturers. As such, entrepreneurs and mature businesses can design and produce functional prototypes in less time than it takes to watch your favorite movie.  With relatively low cost of entry, the makers’ movement has become mainstream, captivating the minds of do-it-yourselfers and professional industrial and product designers.
  • Although having more options for quick design, prototype, and production is all good, scaling up production is an entirely different skill set. Having the right software and equipment can get someone started in rapid prototyping, however, making the leap from printing one dimensionally correct part to manufacturing thousands of precision parts that need to be validated and integrated into a complex product system, requires far greater knowledge and capability.
  • For over 20 years HARBEC has been working with additive manufacturing (AM) technologies, and has also explored ways to envelop AM not only as a capability, but as an integrated manufacturing strategy and process.
  • Our recent work, for example, to incorporate principles of biomimicry into 3D printed injection molds demonstrates how we’ve leveraged prior knowledge, with state-of-the-art AM capabilities, toward enhancing the performance of new-age custom injection molding tools and manufacturing processes.inj_mold_copy_tall_did_you_know_tall_normal
  • Whether the need is for one, hundreds, thousands, or millions of parts – HARBEC’s team evaluates how it can bring unique solutions and value to the customer. By using DFM principles, software tools, and QMS approaches in early-stage product design and prototyping, HARBEC helps customers get their product to market quicker, with less risk and greater value.
  • For additional information, check out HARBEC’s Design Guides related to Additive Manufacturing, Sustainable Product Design, and Injection Molding Part Design and by visiting www.HARBEC.com.

The Future is NOW!

Frequently called upon for manufacturing solutions to challenging projects, HARBEC serves the most discerning customers within the aerospace/defense and security, medical device, electronics, automotive/transportation, and consumer product markets.

HARBEC takes great pride in delivering high performance precision parts to ALL of its customers. “Value indicators” such as speed, quality, performance and cost are top priority to HARBEC’s design, engineering, project management, quality, manufacturing, logistics and marketing teams’ members. In doing so, HARBEC views its role not just as a supply chain vendor – but as an integral member of our customers’ teams, converging capabilities to achieve better products and solutions.

From Robots to Racing

HARBEC never compromises on its integrity or value. Whether our customers are launching rockets to space, exploring the vastness of the deep-sea, or transporting goods across the interstate, HARBEC’s manufactured solutions are delivering unparalleled performance.

HARBEC extends this ethic to the “NOW Generation” – high school, college and university, and trade program students who represent America’s future innovators, engineers, and technologists.

In the past year HARBEC proudly served students of three regional technology design and development teams just as we would any customer: with 100% commitment to quality, performance and satisfaction. These included:

  • TAN[X], Canandaigua’s FIRST Robotics Team
  • Rensselaer Motorsport, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s (RPI) Formula SAE Team
  • RIT Clean Snowmobile, Rochester Institute of Technology’s (RIT) SAE Clean Snowmobile Team
Rensselaer Motorsport
 Competition_Team_Photo  Roll_Out_Top_View
RIT Clean Snowmobile Team
5 20160601_151655
TAN[X]
 2016 Robotics Team Photo A2_Med  Harbec 3D Wheels_Med

In each instance the student-led teams sought out HARBEC for its ability to provide high-value technical expertise, precision manufacturing, agile innovation support, and very fast turnaround time.

For example, RIT’s SAE Clean Snowmobile Team sought a way to redesign their air intake system which would eliminate flow restrictions and improve overall engine performance. Project Manager Anthony NaDell shared his experience:  “From the moment we contacted HARBEC about potentially helping us out, everyone was very helpful. They guided us with things like figuring out the best way to make our product and what material we should use to handle the rigorous operating conditions.  HARBEC’s customer service was excellent and we would love to work with the company again in the future.​ For a single part prototype the small lead time was very impressive.”

TAN[X] designs and builds robots to meet demanding challenges established by the FIRST Robotics competition each year. Launched in 2008, TAN[X] teams’ now average about 35 students per year representing grades 9-12. Further, TAN[X] has brought together dozens of local sponsors and team mentors to support their annual challenges. HARBEC supported the team with quick turnaround parts, as they managed frequent modifications depending upon the needs of each design challenge. Specifically, TAN[X] had complications with their robot’s tank treads falling off. In response, the team designed a new pulley using CAD that was cogged with teeth, enabling the treaded track to stay in place. HARBEC 3D-printed the pulley for TAN[X]. Steve Schlegel, one of the mentors of TAN[X] stated, “HARBEC’s ability to quickly respond with a 3D printed part made a HUGE difference, and took our team up a couple notches in how well we could compete.”

Each year more than 30 student members of Rensselaer Motorsport, the official name of RPI’s Formula SAE team, design and build an open-wheeled formula race car from the ground up. The competition is regarded as one of the world’s largest intercollegiate design series. The experience enables students to take what they learned in the classroom and apply it to real-world hands-on high-technology applications. The process expands upon students’ knowledge and continued development of career-critical skills including team building and communication, engineering and systems design, data analytics and problem-solving.

HARBEC has supported Rensselaer Motorsport for many years of competition, particularly in the areas of 3-D design and analysis, materials evaluation, and production of custom precision parts.

Nicholas Debono of Rensselaer Motorsport reflects, “Rensselaer Motorsport depends on the generosity of sponsor donations to complete our yearly goal. For years, HARBEC has been one of the teams most generous and critical sponsors.  Working with HARBEC has always been a great experience. Parts are always provided with the shortest possible lead times, and professionals are always willing to help our students when advice is needed. Simply put, without HARBEC, Rensselaer Motorsport would not be able to achieve our design goals.”

For example, HARBEC supported RPI’s team with their intake assembly. Formula SAE rules require that the engine’s design teams, like Rensselaer Motorsport intake pull air through a circular restrictor 20mm in diameter. This design constraint greatly affected the power and performance of the engine. In order to compensate for the restrictor, RPI FSAE has, over the years, developed the intake assembly pictured below. It is one of the most developed systems on their racecar, earning them valuable design points during competition.

Intake_Rendering

Figure 1: Solidworks Rendering of Intake Assembly

fig2

Figure 2: Sectioned View of Intake Assembly

Prior to working with HARBEC, leveraging its in-house 3-D design and printing capabilities, RPI’s SAE Formula Team relied upon much simpler designs, limiting the range of materials and performance of the intake. Many of the features of RPI’s current design were not able to be used with the older carbon design. For example, the rifling seen in figure 3, and the spike in the center of figure 4, would be almost impossible to recreate without 3D printing technology.

fig3

Figure 3: Section view Throttle Body

fig4

Figure 4: View of Runners

Because the intake is exposed to very harsh environments, material selection is also crucial. Fuel is continuously injected into the intake assembly, requiring materials to be chemically resistant. Further, the intake assembly needed to be strong, compliant, and heat resistant to ensure high performance in a combustion environment.  HARBEC engineers worked with RPI’s designers to select a glass filled polyamide material that performed extremely well in their unique application. The end result was an extremely efficient, lightweight intake assembly that added technical performance on the track and brought unique design points from the judges.

Why investing in the NOW Generation is So Critical to Business Success

The future is NOW. And in HARBEC’s experience, investing in students is critical to business sustainability and success. Just like the three examples described, every customer of HARBEC comes to us with unique technical requirements, design, engineering and manufacturing challenges. In our experience, overcoming technical challenges requires teamwork, problem-solving, and ingenuity.

It’s been a pleasure for HARBEC to have been a part of these three student design and competition teams. The students are the NOW Generation, focused, eager, competitive, creative, and willing to learn. They displayed technical prowess and grace under pressure as they functioned as a team, and collaborated professionally with mentors and technical solutions providers.  The individuals of these teams represent the future of design, engineering, product development, and innovation for HARBEC as well as our global customers in the aerospace, defense, security, automotive and transportation, medical device, consumer products and goods industries.

We congratulate TAN[X], Rensselaer Motorsport, and RIT Clean Snowmobile on their accomplishments, and stand ready to serve them and all of our customers with continued excellence.

Delivering Value to the Toughest Customers Requires Trust, Ingenuity, and Teamwork

The aerospace/defense and medical industries have very discerning requirements. Customers in these sectors value precision engineering, and manufacturing. With that comes adherence to very tight part tolerances, superior performance, speed, agility, efficiency, and for many, 100% inspection. HARBEC has manufactured precision parts for customers in these fields, meeting the most stringent customer requirements and demanding applications.

In the medical sector HARBEC manufactures parts for:

  • spinal implantsblood-pressure
  • MRI and imaging components
  • surgical robots
  • dialysis and IV components
  • medication disbursement devices
  • reagent closures
  • blood pressure
  • surgical head lamps
  • blood and DNA collection and analysis devices
  • a diverse array of other components used in surgical, emergency, laboratory or clinical office applications

In the aerospace/defense sector HARBEC manufactures components such as:24589505473_74c0268b7e_o

  • electronic and battery housings
  • measurement devices
  • lenses
  • precision poppets
  • valve housings and covers
  • heat sinks, display modules
  • robotics, engineered solutions for thermal management
  • additional applications spanning space, sea, terrestrial, and soldier-readiness applications

These examples represent a small sample of the hundreds of critical end-uses that HARBEC’s parts have been entrusted to support. Although the application demands and part features between the aerospace/defense and medical sectors are different, there are some similarities with regard to the attention to detail they demand of manufacturers.

Often, customers in medical and aerospace/defense specify difficult to mold or machine materials including engineered polymers, titanium and magnesium. They also request full traceability for our parts, requiring us to have a disciplined project management and documentation process. Commitment and adherence to production and quality processes have been instrumental in keeping HARBEC a trusted partner for all customers, including aerospace/defense and medical customers.

As our customers have come to trust in HARBEC’s core competencies (quality, speed, performance, and value?) and capabilities (customer injection molding, prototypes, 3D printing, CNC machining) they’ve also realized they can obtain better results by extending their relationship with us. Here are two examples, one in medical and the other in aerospace/defense, where customers are realizing the full potential of HARBEC.

Aerospace/Defense Customer Example

For an aerospace/defense customerHARBEC is providing 3D printed components that are part of a valve assembly. The components, grown in HARBEC’s ESO 290 machine,are made out of stainless steel andwill be used in space-flight applications.3D printing provides tremendous design and manufacturing flexibility that simply is not available from other traditional manufacturing processes. But, as this particular customer has realized, 3D printing is not the be-all end-all solution for every part. In many cases, 3D printed parts need further processing, whether it’s precision machining, cleaning, over molding, heat treating, and so on.

While many customers (this one included) are attracted to HARBEC for one solution (in this case 3D printing), they are typically very pleased to discover that HARBEC’s expertise in CNC Machining, Custom Injection Molding, and Prototyping can complement and provide additional value to their part and the relationship they have with HARBEC.

Once completed, the component that was 3D printing for this aerospace/defense customer was inspected and shipped. The customer would then open the shipped part, conduct their own in-house inspection, and then proceed to a series of additional manufacturing steps including machining, cleaning, and assembly. This was adding expense and prolonging the completion of their final component. Once we were aware that these operations were occurring after we shipped the parts, it was proposed that we could reduce valuable time, cost, and materials from the process.

Medical Customer Example

A longstanding medical customer of HARBEC had a need for cleanroom molding of custom prototype parts. HARBEC worked with the customer on a design for manufacturing strategy that included mold making, implementation of a self-contained cleanroom manufacturing cell, integration of an automated labeling fixture, and hourly air monitoring to ensure particle count was well within the desired threshold.Achieving project delivery success for this multifaceted project required collaboration, coordination, and commitment from a multi-faceted team comprised of representative from project management, sales, engineering, plastics, models, quality, and maintenance.
cleanroom

In manufacturing it’s easy to get fixated on “the part.” The final and physical form of the “part” after all, is the culmination of hours of engineering time, creativity, teamwork and focus. The part is the embodiment of value. But the value does not end with the part. Where the part goes next, whether it has additional manufacturing operations, how it will be assembled and integrated into a system, and what happens in-service and at end-of-life, these are each critical points of value-creation for manufacturers. As cutting edge additive manufacturing technologies like 3D printing continue to expand, other capabilities like machining will not go away. Rather, a complement of manufacturing tools, capabilities and integrated processes are increasingly necessary to meet the stringent needs of aerospace/defense and medical customers. By focusing on the total solution, and not just the part, manufacturers can assess and determine how best to derive the greatest value for win-win supplier relationships.

Creating a More Sustainable World in 3D

Do you see your world in 3D…Where the dimensions of economy (profit), environment (planet), and society (people) are equally considered in the realization of your manufactured product? Traditional approaches to manufacturing have relied far too heavily on resource intensive processes that don’t always balance the needs of society with the profit goals of the enterprise or the environmental protection that is required for the earth to maintain a healthy and vibrant ecosystem.

Manufacturing enterprises have become substantially more resource efficient and operationally intelligent in the past Century. Compared to the way Additive Manufacturing and 3D printing can enable, there hasn’t been as dramatic an opportunity for industry to realize transformational shifts in resource utilization, since the invention of the steam engine.

Additive manufacturing (AM) takes advantage of various processes used to make three-dimensional objects in which successive layers of materials are laid down under computer control. The objects can be of almost any shape or geometry, and are produced from a 3D model or other electronic data source. AM technologies and processes are now used in a wide-range of industries and to design, engineer, and manufacture higher-performance products. AM technologies and approaches include stereolighography (SLA), selective laser sintering (SLS), and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS).

Recent advances in topology optimization can, when blended with AM, provide the means for producing a new generation of engineered parts and products. A few  years ago, AM and 3D printing were widely viewed as prototype-exclusive tools due to their relative high cost, limited material and finishing capabilities.

Definition:
TOPOLOGY:  the way in which consistent parts are interrelated or arranged.

Today, AM and 3D printing tools and equipment can, when integrated with software for topology optimization, revolutionize the way in which products are designed, prototyped, and manufactured. AM and 3D printing provide unparalleled opportunities and freedom to product designers. AM and 3D printing are near a convergence point in assimilating a suite of software, materials, techniques, and finishing options that can springboard this novel technology into the forefront of sustainable product design and manufacturing.

As AM and 3D printing integrate science and technology into superior manufacturing capabilities, the only limiting factor will be our imagination. AM and 3D printing allow for the design, development, and manufacturing of more complex shapes and topographies which result in customized products at faster manufacturing cycle times.

Slide1

The flexible design and production freedom of AM can enable sustainable design and manufacture of products. AM offers a new way to achieve competitive advantages in product design and manufacturing by addressing:

  • Design freedom – Due to the wide-ranging potential of AM technologies, design opportunities are limited only by one’s imagination. Traditional manufacturing methods play a large role in the range of options that can be achieved for product designers. In the old world of manufacturing, equipment and machines drove design and product realization based upon the capabilities of the manufacturing equipment. In contrast, the AM world liberates design and provides the means to manufacture parts that would never have been conceivable (at least cost-effectively) with traditional manufacturing methods.
  • Part optimization – AM can, when aligned with the right software, design tools, and material selections, allow designers to achieve optimum part design and performance according to characteristics and requirements that they establish. If a designer wants to optimize their part for materials utilization, production speed, or a variety of other factors related to topology, they can now do so. The latest capabilities of AM and 3D printing provide designers with tools and capabilities that can result in higher performance parts that use less material, energy, and natural resources to develop, manufacture, and use.
  • Materials availability and scarcity – As a manufacturing process, AM only uses the material(s) necessary to realize the part geometry, scale, and size specified by digital design files. Because AM processes grow a shape by depositing layer upon layer of material, this approach is significantly less material intensive than other manufacturing approaches. An example would be the design and development of an injection mold using AM (growing the injection mold with only the right amount of material necessary) versus traditional methods of CNC machining (extracting material from a large block).
  • Process and energy efficiency – When used as an integrated component of a “total manufacturing solution,” AM can be instrumental in reducing total energy consumption per part. For example, the potential of AM can allow for the development of custom injection molds/tools that more efficiently direct water or other forms of cooling to the mold, therefore reducing the time it takes to injection mold and cool a part. This achieves lower total energy for injection molders, and in addition, faster cycle times. AM can be a stand-alone manufacturing process/tool, or strategically included into a total manufacturing solution that helps manufacturers deliver high quality and performance products at every stage of the product life-cycle: design, prototype, tool making, production, and so on.
  • De-materialization of products –AM offers potential to redesign existing or new parts that perform the same or better function, and which use less material. AM parts can be designed to be lighter weight, stronger, and with greater utility than parts manufactured from other processes. As such, AM parts are becoming a preferred solution for the medical device, transportation, aerospace, and defense industries as an opportunity to integrate stronger, lighter, and longer-lasting parts into their products. These industries are attracted by many benefits of AM, however the option to dematerialize a part can have dramatic impact on total product weight, energy use, performance and longevity. For example, in the aerospace industry, companies like GE, Boeing, Airbus, and Lockheed Martin seek to reduce the weight of aircraft to achieve fuel savings, higher performance (faster aircraft), lower weight and more space. The result is a next generation of aircraft that can carry more people and cargo, longer distances, at faster speed, while using less fuel, materials, and resources.
  • Speed-to-market – With AM you can produce a part in hours, not the days or even weeks that may be required with other manufacturing methods. As a result, AM has become the process of choice for many design companies who want quick turn-around on precision prototypes at reasonable cost. In the consumer product sector, the life-cycle of many products is becoming shorter and shorter, in part because of ongoing advances in electronics and technology which make products obsolete in 18-to-24 month business cycles. As a result, many consumer product companies want a more flexible manufacturing opportunity, which balances speed-to-market with shorter-run manufacturing cycles. AM provides this kind of opportunity to cost-effectively bring new products to market quickly, and also enable a manufacturing volume that aligns with the fickleness of the marketplace.

AM delivers the means for designers, manufacturers, and society to visualize, advance, and accelerate the realization of manufactured products across three dimensions (people, planet, and profit). As shown in the visual, the opportunity and scale of sustainability potential and impacts is magnified as AM and 3D printing are used from the onset, and across the product development life-cycle.

 

Do you see your world in 3D

 

Ultimately, the use of AM results in competitive advantages related to operational efficiency (i.e., achieving lower cost of manufactured goods) and development of products that achieve a differentiated and sustainable product performance advantage (i.e., products that are stronger, faster, lighter, use less energy, use less materials, etc.). Finally, the unique capabilities of AM can support a circular economy, one which is restorative, less depletive, and leverages the elegant capabilities of AM to support or enable sustainable design, sustainable manufacturing, sustainable product realization, and product remanufacturing.

From Difficult to Differentiated: Creating Customer Solutions for Hard to Manufacture Materials

For many industries, high-intensity and high-value jobs require precision instruments that are made from high-performance materials. The medical, aerospace, defense, energy, and transportation industries are a few of the sectors that design and manufacture their parts, products, and integrated systems with materials such as titanium, magnesium, carbon steel, and others because of the unique performance properties these materials provide.

There are many challenges in using high-performance materials that add complexity and difficulty to the design and manufacture of high-performance products. For example:

  • Material Cost – High-performance materials typically have higher costs. As such, it is important that the use of these materials be optimized in all phases of the material life-cycle: design, manufacture, use, and end-of-life disposition. There are ways to reduce material waste in manufacturing by looking at a diversity of options for part design, manufacturing technique/process, and other factors. Check out HARBEC’s Sustainable Design Guide as an example of how design can impact the more efficient utilization of high-value materials.
  • Material Availability – The availability of high-performance materials can also be a challenge. Many high-performance materials are mined from specific regions of the world. The availability of materials is impacted by economic, geographic, supply, demand, regulatory, environmental, and other factors. The availability of materials also impacts its price, supply, and use.
  • Material Tracking and Regulatory Compliance – Understanding point of origin and supply chain relationships for materials has become a business necessity. Accounting (traceability) for ‘conflict minerals’ within the supply chain has, since Congress approved the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, been a requirement for U.S. based manufacturers. Check with your suppliers to see if they have a Conflict Minerals policy in place, like this example from HARBEC.
  • Manufacturing Capability – The use of high-performance materials requires high-performance manufacturing capabilities that either reside in-house or among suppliers. The handling and manufacturing of high-performance materials can require specialized equipment, certifications, technical know-how, and process sophistication. Hard to machine metals, for example, require machine operators and toolmakers that have built, through years of experience, insight and knowledge of how materials perform  under a diversity of manufacturing operations.
  • Material Handling –Some high-performance materials are also a challenge to work with because they require special handling requirements. The safe and environmentally responsible storage, handling, and disposal of materials can add cost, time, and complexity to already tight time schedules. As such, it pays to work with material handlers, suppliers, and manufacturers that are experienced in the specific material handling requirements. Often there are very specific and specialized regulatory, environmental, safety, recycling, and disposal requirements for high-performance materials.
HARBECsample_parts

HARBEC sample parts injection molded in a variety of engineering resins and metal.

Although there are challenges in working with high-performance materials, the benefits are tremendous. High-performance materials can differentiate products in their weight, design, performance, tolerance holding, utility, and sustainability. By working with material vendors and manufacturing partners that have depth of knowledge, experience, and capability, you can hedge yourself on any downside “difficulties,” and optimize your potential to “differentiate” your high-performance product.

Since 1977 HARBEC has earned a reputation and grown its business by solving tough manufacturing challenges. HARBEC’s origins stem from working with difficult to machine and mold materials. With nearly four decades of experience, HARBEC is well positioned to take on the most challenging of materials. HARBEC regularly machines magnesium, titanium, and hardened steels to very tight tolerances for a diversity of customers spanning aerospace, defense, medical, and research organizations.

HARBEC operates over 44 vertical mills, 6 horizontal lathes, and multiple EDM centers on three shifts, producing small to medium volumes of high precision parts for customers worldwide.  Our team readily works with customers to improve the manufacturability of prototypes and production parts, always striving for the best balance of function, cost and delivery. HARBEC has dedicated milling centers for difficult to machine metals such as titanium with a .01” diameter end mill.

HARBEC has earned a reputation as a custom injection molder and custom CNC machining company because it does not shy away from challenging materials, complex part geometries, tight tolerances, or demanding schedules. HARBEC works hard to support its customers by providing strategy and insight from its four decades of know-how and experience, to create custom solutions that often exceed time, cost, and performance requirements. HARBEC prides itself on being an extension of its customer’s teams, working with its own in-house engineers, tool makers, and machinists to provide exemplary levels of service and detail to every job, every customer, and every day.

Water Stewardship: An Untapped Industrial Opportunity

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), less than one percent of the total water on earth is fresh water available for human uses including drinking, transportation, heating and cooling, and industry. The balance of water is not readily available for human use because it is saline (ocean water), tied up in snow, ice, and glaciers, or in other mediums of storage such as water vapor.

There has been a lot of attention brought to water through the drought situation in California but the problem is worldwide. In February the Washington Post published an article: “A ‘megadrought’ will grip U.S. in the coming decades, NASA researchers say”. Scientific American  and National Geographic had similar articles.

Every manufactured product requires the use of water at some point of the production and delivery process. For example, some sources estimate that the production of one car requires the use of 39,000 gallons of water. In the U.S., industry uses more than 18.2 billion gallons of water per day. Industrial uses of water include fabricating, processing, washing, diluting, cooling, or transporting a product; incorporating water into a product; or for sanitation needs within manufacturing facilities. Some industry sectors are very water intensive including food, paper, chemicals, refined petroleum, and primary metal producers. But regardless of the end-use, or intensity of use, there is no question that water is a precious and valuable natural resource to industry.

In the U.S., industrial uses of water represent less than 8% of total water use. On a global scale, industrial use of water represents approximately 20% of total water use (70% of water is used in the agriculture sector globally). What’s interesting is that there is a very close relationship between industrial energy and water use. Understanding the ‘energy-water nexus’ is just one way industry can become more aware of its natural resource use, and discover solutions which can be implemented to achieve both energy and water related stewardship objectives.

The diagram below provides more insight into the energy-water nexus. The figure, prepared by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, illustrates the flows of energy consumed for Direct Water Services and Direct Steam Use in the Residential, Commercial, and Industrial (including Power) sectors. Ultimately, 58% of this primary energy is rejected as waste heat due to losses during electricity conversion and at end-use.

Energy+Water

Water use trends summarized by USGS show that as population has increased so has our use of water. What’s promising however is that industrial uses of water have shown declines in recent years.  In every industrial sector, there are leading examples of how industry is working to curtail its use of water, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it makes eco-economic sense.

HARBEC, Inc. has committed to be a water neutral manufacturing facility and company by the end of 2015. HARBEC is continuously striving to enhance the efficiency, productivity, and competitiveness of its operations. Bob Bechtold, President of HARBEC, states, “We are seriously committed to sustainable manufacturing. Like energy, water represents a critical requirement and input into our manufacturing processes. Water is integral to the performance, quality, price, and longevity of every component we make. As such, we place a premium value on water. We also know that water and energy have a very close, symbiotic relationship, particularly in manufacturing environments. As we advance our accountability and stewardship of water, in turn we also further our energy efficiency goals.”

The HARBEC example of industrial leadership for water stewardship is far from unique. Between 2008 and 2012, toy manufacturer Hasbro reduced its water use at their owned and operated facilities by 31 percent. And, to extend their commitment and leadership, Hasbro announced that by the end of 2015 it will partner with its China-based supplier facilities to establish annual water conservation action plans. In another example, between 2000 and 2013 Ford Motor Company reduced water use per vehicle manufactured from one of their Mexico-based facilities by 58%. Companies like Hasbro, Ford, and HARBEC are not reducing water use only in response to the growing global issue of water scarcity. These industrial leaders are taking action on water accountability because it results in lower operating costs, product margin improvement, and more competitive and efficient operations. Unilever, for example, estimates that their reduction of water from manufacturing operations has achieved cumulative supply chain cost avoidance of €26 million since 2008.

In addition to eco-economic water stewardship opportunities “inside the fence,” some companies have chosen to combine their efforts and resources to advocate for water stewardship as business imperative. The efforts of the Blue Business Council in California, represented by companies including Patagonia, New Belgium Brewing, Klean Kanteen, Clif Energy Bars, New Resource Bank and others, is reflective of how business and industry understand that the economic opportunity of water resides in the stewardship of this precious resource.

Opportunities for water stewardship (economic, environmental, innovation and societal impacts) are limitless. Just as leading companies are hard at work to reduce and conserve their water resources, others are continually innovating new products which ensure our standards of water purity and cleanliness are always achieved. Companies such as Pall Corporation, Aquatech, Pentair, and many others are developing innovative products to serve the clean water requirements of industry.

In short, water stewardship is big business. The question is, how much of it has been YOUR business?