Real World Applications of 3D Printing

January 2, 2015
As one would expect—day in and day out—use of equipment takes its toll. Preventative maintenance programs are a must, but at the end of the day… sometimes things just break. Recently, our liquid honing machine, started acting up. A honing machine looks a lot like a sand blast cabinet, but works through a combination of air pressure and water solution pressure. Great for plastics, this action is gentle and works well to clean up rough edges and leaves a nice consistent finish surface appearance. Unfortunately, our honer was not functioning properly. At first we believed the air pressure was the culprit. However, after disassembly of the inbound air line, it was determined that the foot activated electrical solenoid which allows air passage was bad. The rubber diaphragm inside the solenoid had deteriorated from age. We got on the horn with the honer’s manufacturer in search of the solenoid. They located a solenoid for us and overnighted the piece. We received and immediately installed the part. The results were better, but still not 100%. We moved to the water pressure side of the equation. The inbound water is supplied via a regular hook-up similar to that on your washing machine. However, that water is constantly regurgitated in the bottom hopper to ensure water and cutting media are mixed. The process is driven by an electric motor and a mechanical water pump. The inconsistent “surface appearance” of our parts lead us to believe the water pump was not performing its job. After disconnecting the water, air and electric, we began to disassemble the water pump. In short order, we identified the pump impeller had broken off the main shaft. Back on the horn with the manufacturer. The new complication became a 2 to 3 month wait for the new impeller—not an option. The honer is used several hours daily. One of the things I believe we do well at Met-L-Flo is find internal solutions. We decided to build our own impeller! Why not… it’s made out of plastic. With some estimated measurements and a little CAD magic, we were able to reverse engineer the part. Once we had the CAD, we were ready to build. We decided to build the part in our FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) machine for strength and durability. While the part was being built, we cleaned up the pump body and chased all threads to insure an easy re-assembly with all new stainless steel hardware. Reassembly is now done and it’s time to test…. The results are excellent! We can once again provide our customers with the quality parts that we are committed to deliver…Honing group

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