Tag Archives: Additive Manufacturing

40 Years of HARBEC: Part 4

The fourth segment of this forty year adventure covers 2007 to the present. It started out with one of the most difficult challenges Harbec had to deal with to date. 2007 and 2008 were the most economically challenging years they had ever faced. During this time they saw their business’s financial health fail significantly and while they lost no customers during this period, the customers they did have reduced their orders substantially. The challenging times forced them to cut back, utilize resources carefully and join together to weather the storm. They came out of it stronger and more prepared for the future.

One of the most successful capabilities they have to win the attention of new customer potentials, has proven to be their advanced additive manufacturing technical abilities. In a time when everyone is dabbling in ‘3D printing” they are doing some of the most complex and advanced work that is available in the manufacturing marketplace. Their belief that additive is only part of the answer and that its combination with precision subtractive CNC machining offers the best total solution, is resonating with their customers.

This success is helping them to develop their strategy for future enhancement and growth of the business. Specifically they are working toward the day when all of their toolmakers will be able to think and do both additive and subtractive equally well and so will apply both to accomplishing the production of the ‘best solution’ for their customer. From molds, to models, to precision components, all will be equally involved. The journey will be similar to the advent of CNC machining where some toolmakers decided not to participate and were eventually left behind. Harbec is very fortunate to have the ability and equipment to offer this new path to their toolmakers and as they develop the training opportunities and methods, they will eventually become one of the first ‘manufacturers of the future’.

Another advancement in their capabilities this past decade is in the area of precision CNC machining. They have come to appreciate the significant benefits that 4 and 5 axis CNC machines can offer. Until recently these machines were thought of for their abilities to do machining of complex parts like turbine blades, pump impellers and other parts that required simultaneous multi-axis cutter paths. They now realize that they actually offer much more than just that. Their ability is even greater and more advantageous to Harbec, for reducing the amount of setups required to do more conventional precision parts. They give them the ability to machine a part from multiple sides, therefore requiring many less setups, which offers improved precision overall. Moving forward Harbec will replace 3 axis CNC machines with 4 and 5 axis mills and lathes. This change will offer even more exciting new things for their toolmakers to learn and get involved with.

Harbec’s injection molding department has also made great strides this past decade, from increased utilization of automation to improve quality and reliability, to reduction of waste and improved efficiencies. Their cleanroom capabilities have helped them to become a certified medical molder. Recent developments in transfer molding and the related opportunities in bobbin and component machining have given them exciting new skills and capabilities to help them win new business in the future. Their management of materials and waste has also made great strides and improvement.

During this decade Harbec has continued to progress in the area of sustainable manufacturing, believing that they should be a conscientious manufacturer who takes responsibility for their business and what it causes both directly and indirectly. Typically manufacturers do not pay attention to how they are releasing carbon into the atmosphere, whether they do it directly through onsite chimneys or let the utilities do it for them through the production of their power. To the contrary, Harbec has attained carbon neutrality, which means that the component parts that they make have no carbon footprint. They are currently developing a set of metrics that will allow them to share with any existing or potential customer, the amount of carbon that they reduced from their company’s footprint by buying HARBEC parts. Their hope is that this will be an attribute that they offer, at no additional charge, that their competition does not.

Their most recent improvement in the area of sustainable energy is the completion of their CHP upgrade. In 2014/15 they won a NYSERDA grant to upgrade their CHP plant. While the plant was running fine, the grant allowed them to double their ability to use the energy in the fuel they were consuming even more efficiently as a result of thermal use enhancements. They were able to remove and recycle eight natural gas furnaces, eight 5 ton electric DX air conditioners and two 20 ton rooftop air conditioners, and replaced them with 12 new heat/cool air exchangers. They estimate that this will improve their energy BTU efficiencies to over 80% compared to the average for utility power which is only 25 to 35% efficient.

Harbec’s owner, Bob Bechtold concludes: “The past 40 years have been a great and rewarding experience for me. While they sometimes held challenges and difficulties, they more than equally offered amazing rewards and good fortune. In my life I have been blessed by always knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up and have had the opportunities to pursue that dream. These forty years of progress are due to all the people who have contributed in so many ways, for which I’m eternally grateful. My final challenge is to find a successor who understands what HARBEC is really all about, someone who will use the direction and momentum they have accomplished and take the wheel to drive it even farther into the future.”

 

Here is the complete 40 years of HARBEC series:

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.

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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.