PCB Linear is a designer and manufacturer of linear bearings and rails, patented linear guide systems, and linear actuator technology. The parts they manufacture vary in size, from just a few millimetres to several metres. To meet the growing demand for their linear systems, PCB utilises a number of manufacturing methods. One of these is 3D printing.
The introduction of 3D printing to the factory floor came as a solution to design and production challenges. The engineering team needed a way to manufacture long fixtures that could hold a lot of bearings. While these fixtures could be produced with CNC machining, the labour time would be too great for such projects to give the business a return.
Engineers at PBC Linear started looking into 3D printing, inspired by what they had heard about factory floor application in the past. Specifically, they wanted a technology that would enable them to utilise the principles of lean manufacturing and SMED (Single-Minute Exchange of Dies) to reduce changeover times and increase manufacturing efficiency.
The team knew they needed a big 3D printer. They came across the 3D Platform range while researching the market. They were instantly drawn to the reliability and consistency claims, as well as the BIG build volumes of the WorkSeries line of large-format 3D printers.
The team needed a way to print long fixtures. The 3D Platform WorkSeries offered that. They immediately set to work with it, designing a fixture in CAD that could hold more bearings than one made by traditional means. This design and production process enabled the team to reduce set-ups and allowed machine operators to run multiple machines simultaneously. They were also able to print the fixture in one part, eliminating the need for post-processing.
The team now use 3D printing to manufacture custom parts for linear bearings and rails, patented
linear guide systems, and linear actuator technology. 3D printing hasn’t displaced traditional processes – rather, it works alongside them.
The introduction of 3D printing to the factory floor has boosted innovation and creativity among engineers and sped up some aspects of workflow. For example, engineers are able to manufacture multiple parts in one print cycle. This has two efficiency advantages: 1) up to 60 parts can be made at any one time, and 2) there has been a reduction in changeover times.
A good example of a part that has benefited from 3D printing is the magazine rack. This would ordinarily be made using CNC machining. It’d be machined from a solid block of aluminium or plastic by hand. This labour-intensive task is now carried out with 3D printing. The team simply load a CAD file, press print, and the magazine rack is made for them.
Reduction in changeover times has also proven crucial. 3D printed parts are size-specific, which enables machines to run more efficiently. The old way of removing heavy ramps and reloading and re-adjusting is a thing of the past. Thanks to 3D printed size-specified parts, engineers can externally load a fixture while another is internally in operation.
Here’s a breakdown of some more results:
Aluminium (CNC) vs Plastic (3DP)
– CNC ramp – time to make, 10 minutes. Worker expense, $5.84
– 3DP ramp – time to make, 3 minutes. Worker expense, $1.75
This equates to savings per week of $490 and $25,480 for the year, and time savings of 14 hours per week and 728 hours for the year.
PCB Linear are consistently impressed by 3D printing and the 3DP WorkSeries, and are planning to incorporate additive manufacturing into their processes more in the future.
3D Printer: 3D Platform 3D printers.
Material used: Multiple, mainly PLA and ABS. You can find materials here.
This information was first published as a case study by 3D Platform here.