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Eaton Vehicle Group Implements Metal 3D Printing Program To Drive Efficiency

Eaton’s Vehicle Group reduced cost and development time using its 3D metal printing capabilities to produce this oil fill nozzle.

Eaton (Power management company), yesterday announced its Vehicle Group is implementing a new 3D metal printing program as a part of its Industry 4.0 strategy to reduce development time and improve efficiency. The first metal printer system was installed at the Kings Mountain, N.C., facility, and a global deployment of 3D polymer printing technology is slated to be completed by first-quarter 2021.

The 3D printers are being utilized to create high-quality fixtures, safety devices, automation grippers for assembly and handling, and maintenance components requiring replacement. Prototype development is following the same strategy to support faster product development trials and improve efficiency.

Improving output and efficiency

To speed up the design process, scanners are used to create 3D models of existing components. This process allows components to be reverse-engineered to better leverage 3D printing capabilities, including changing component design to use less material, the addition of different topography elements or consolidating multiple components into a single part.

As an increasing number of 3D printers are deployed across the globe, Eaton’s Vehicle Group has been realizing further operational improvements including lead-time reduction and cost savings.

The 3D printing technology adds material only where it is needed and allows more advanced designs to be developed. Together, these two factors reduce the amount of post-processing operations needed while reducing material cost.

A closer look at 3D printing

In 2018, its aerospace division purchased two Concept laser additive manufacturing systems from GE Additive, to be integrated into Eaton’s Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence at its Innovation Center in Southfield, Michigan, and its research and development (R&D) lab in Pune, India. Two years after its establishment in 2016, Eaton’s Michigan facility earned AS9100 Rev D certification, validating its quality system for the provision of safe and reliable metal 3D printed aerospace products to civil and military customers.

Since then, Eaton has used additive manufacturing to generate low-cost hydropower for the U.S. Department of Energy, through the manufacture of hydropower turbines and generator sets. The company also recognized 3D printing as a valuable method in achieving its Zero Waste to Landfill (ZWTL) initiative across a number of its sites.

Most recently, Eaton partnered with the Lighting Research Center (LRC) in Troy, New York, to develop a fully 3D printed LED-integrated luminaire. Backed by the Department of Energy, the project aimed to overcome the barriers to the adoption of additive manufacturing technology within solid-state lighting (SSL).

Going forward, the Vehicle Group’s 3D printing capabilities will be used to further reduce production time and drive efficiency. Learn more about the Vehicle Group’s Industry 4.0 technologies and benefits.

Eaton’s mission is to improve the quality of life and the environment through the use of power management technologies and services. They provide sustainable solutions that help our customers effectively manage electrical, hydraulic, and mechanical power – more safely, more efficiently, and more reliably. Eaton’s 2019 revenues were $21.4 billion, and we sell products to customers in more than 175 countries. They have approximately 92,000 employees.