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John Zink boosts production with Desktop Metal Studio System

The Koch Industries company is seeing cost and time savings thanks to metal AM

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John Zink Hamworthy Combustion, a company that designs and manufactures emissions control and clean-air systems, has been in business for over 90 years. Despite it’s long history, the Oklahoma-based company (now part of Koch Industries) has not shied away from innovation, rather, it has embraced new technologies, such as metal additive manufacturing.

The company recently invested in a metal 3D printing system from Desktop Metal to exploit the benefits of AM and optimize its production model through engineered-to-order and custom optimized parts. Now, after having used its in-house Studio System for several months, the company has revealed exactly how metal additive manufacturing has shaped and improved its production workflows, including faster turnaround times for aftermarket replacement parts, faster prototype design iterations and testing, eliminating the need for costly casting tooling, and leveraging more design freedom for optimized parts.

“Our primary goal at John Zink is to custom engineer new systems that eliminate waste so our customers can operate safely and efficiently,” explained Jason Harjo, Design Manager at John Zink. “Additive manufacturing rewrites the book on what is possible from a design standpoint, and working with Desktop Metal allows us a very low-cost entry point into the technology. The versatility of the Studio System has enabled our engineers and designers to find both applications for the technology as well as design and performance benefits we hadn’t even considered.”

The company has highlighted a number of parts that it has redesigned and improved using Desktop Metal’s AM technology, including a fuel atomizer, YE-6 burner tip, laser gas nozzle, as well as machine tool handles and safety shutoff yoke and handles. Let’s take a closer look.

  • Fuel atomizer
John Zink
3D printed fuel nozzle

This particular component showcases how metal AM can result in significant time and cost savings. In its mission to help customers reduce emissions, John Zink has extensive experience with fuel atomizers, which can improve the fuel-air mix inside burners to minimize ecological impact. The company also recognized the potential for metal AM to improve upon existing fuel atomizers, and set to work prototyping a range of new design options for the component.

Eventually, a final design was reached. The optimized fuel atomizer integrates airfoil-like fins, as well as flat openings (instead of holes) which improve atomization and the burner’s efficiency. The updated, AM-enabled design reportedly reduced fuel use to just 38 kg per hour (compared to 120 kg per hour with the previous design), which could result in dramatic fuel savings for ships. The part is also more economic and could save companies between $90,000 and $160,000 in fuel costs annually. The part is also cheaper (by 75%) and faster (by 37%) to produce than the original.

  • YE-6 burner tip
John Zink Desktop Metal
3D printed YE-6 burner tip

A YE-6 burner tip 3D printed by John Zink using its Desktop Metal Studio System also resulted in dramatic cost savings of 72%. The part, a key element in the efficient operation of industrial burners, was originally made using casting and finished using CNC machining. Further, because the part was originally manufactured 30 years ago, the original tooling for it no longer exists. To circumvent investing in new tooling, John Zink engineers explored the possibility of using AM to produce a cost-effective replacement burner tip. The 3D printed part was based on original engineering drawings, and within weeks a viable printed version was complete.

  • Laser gas nozzle
John Zink Desktop Metal
3D printed laser gas nozzle

John Zink utilized metal AM to produce a laser gas nozzle design with improved design features, including internal channels. This project was undertaken to overcome the challenge of the existing laser cutter nozzle becoming clogged and slag building up on the edges of cut parts. Exploiting the design freedom offered by AM, the John Zink team created a new nozzle with complex internal channels, which direct high-pressure nitrogen gas across the cuts to blow away slag.

  • Machine tool handles and safety shutoff yoke
John Zink Desktop Metal
3D printed machine tool handles

In addition to the three aforementioned components, the company has used AM for a range of other parts, including machine tool handles that facilitate the lifting and placing of heavy tools in a lathe. Prior to using the Studio System, these machine tool handles were printed from plastic, however they ended up breaking. Metal AM has proven to be a suitable alternative compared to plastic AM and more conventional machining processes.

A John Zink team also developed a printed shutoff yoke as well as handles for the USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19), which provides command, control, communications, computer and intelligence support to the commander and staff of the U.S. Seventh Fleet. The safety component did not have any tooling, so 3D printing was the best option for its production.

3D printed safety shutoff yoke and handles

“By eliminating the need for hard tooling with the Studio System, John Zink engineers have been able to produce innovative new parts, reproduce parts for which tooling no longer exists and find creative solutions to improving their workflow,” said Jonah Myerberg, CTO of Desktop Metal. “As a result, their team has been able to significantly speed up the design, manufacture and deployment of parts, while saving money and delivering parts faster to customers.”

“The Studio System has proven to be a useful tool for our designers and engineers, enabling innovative new designs for existing parts, the recreation of legacy components and the production of manufacturing aids that improve efficiency,” added Harjo. “As our designers and engineers continue to explore the possibilities of metal 3D printing, they expect to continue to find new applications for the system, whether to prototype new parts or develop new manufacturing aids.”

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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