‘Our intent is to completely replace existing metal tools with 3D printed equivalents.’
Eckhart has installed a F370 machine as it looks to change how it manufactures factory tools.
Stratasys has entered an exclusive three-year collaboration with Eckhart, Inc. which will see it supply the company with 3D printing technology for the manufacture of factory tooling.
Eckhart has been building tools for use on production lines for more than 60 years, its customer base including some of the largest manufacturers in the world. The firm’s ergonomic lift-assist and torque-mitigating tools allow technicians to perform tasks like the lifting and positioning of a car engine while it is bolted to the chassis, and the company also makes tools that enable high-torque assembly processes where space and parts shape limit access.
As it partners with one of the leading additive manufacturing companies in Stratasys, it is looking to spearhead the adoption of new design techniques for tool production.
“At Eckhart, we believe that with additive manufacturing, there is a real opportunity to reinvent how industrial tools are designed, manufactured, and ultimately used by customers,” comments Andy Storm, Eckhart President and CEO. “Our intent is to completely replace existing metal tools with 3D printed equivalents. The potential for innovation in weight-savings, simplified bills-of-material, and enhanced operator visibility that additive manufacturing affords is unprecedented.”
Eckhart has installed Stratasys’ Fortus 450mc, Fortus 250mc and F370 systems in its recently-opened 47,000 square-foot Advanced Technology Center in Warren, Michigan, which has within it a dedicated 3D printing laboratory. It will also use a range of the company’s materials, including the carbon-fibre reinforced FDM Nylon 12 CF, as it looks to produce on-demand parts and advanced manufacturing tools.
Adopting this array of FDM 3D printing equipment, Eckhart is expecting to see improvements in three main areas. These include lightweighting and ergonomics, making tools easier to operate; line-of-sight improvement, whereby unnecessary material is removed from the design of tools; and simplified build structure and bill of materials, reducing part count and the amount of material required.
“We’re looking forward to working closely with Eckhart to help redesign a new generation of factory tools,” said Patrick Carey, Stratasys Senior Vice President of Sales, North America. “Both companies not only have a great deal to offer one another, but a lot to learn from each other as well. Like Eckhart, Stratasys believes this three-year exclusive agreement has the potential to bring disruptive innovation to the industrial tooling market in North America.”
The partnership also aims to promote the use of micro sensors in 3D printed tools, integrating advanced diagnostics that will ‘enable smart factories of the future.’ This, in theory, will allow users to monitor and better manage the health of their production line.