King Agro, a John Deere company specializing in the development and production of spraying equipment for the agricultural industry, has seen the light—so to speak—since adopting 3D printing technologies into its workflow. The company, reportedly the leading manufacturer of spray booms in South America and Europe, has experienced dramatic cost and time savings by adopting Kodak’s 3D printing technology to fabricate jigs, fixtures and other components.
Though industries like aerospace and even automotive are emphasized in the additive industry because of their growing end-use applications for 3D printed parts, AM is playing a big role behind the scenes in many industries, food and agriculture included.
At King Agro, 3D printing has been of interest for some time because of its capacity to streamline workflows and improve production efficiency. Specifically, King Agro engineers were interested in using the technology to rapidly iterate and validate a variety of parts, while simultaneously improving the production process and reducing costs and turnaround times for parts by keeping more operations in house.
With some existing 3D printing experience (primarily working with PLA), King Agro engineers enlisted the help of KODAK, which broke into the 3D printing market in 2017, to implement the technology further with its KODAK Portrait 3D printer. The King Agro team was drawn to the extrusion-based system because of its user-friendliness as well as its compatibility with engineering materials, such as ABS, Nylon or Flex.
Just ten days after installing the 3D printer, King Agro engineers from various departments were reportedly able to validate over 15 parts, including auxiliary tools, supports, jigs and prototypes.
In the case of a manual drilling jig, King Agro was able to achieve dramatic cost savings up 99.3% and a time saving of 62.5%. The part, used to position holes for highly accurate and safe drilling, cost just $5 per unit when printed from ABS—a huge difference when compared to the original metal CNC machined part which cost $750 per unit. Lead times for the 3D printed part were reduced from 96 hours per iteration to just 18 hours.
Other parts validated by King Agro included an accelerometer support (prototyped using PLA+ and manufactured using ABS), a fixture to hold carbon fiber parts in place, a laser holder to align parts and a part holder for the CNC machining process. In each case, the company saw significant time and cost savings.
“Nowadays, 3D printing technology allows engineers at King Agro to easily print with advanced materials to create different kinds of jigs and fixtures,” says KODAK. “Learning curves, previously complex, today require no more than a few hours in order to enable any engineering/design team to autonomously print parts in ABS, Nylon or Flex that were previously very difficult to manufacture.”
After seeing the success of adopting 3D printing for jigs and fixtures, King Agro will continue to increase its use of the technology. Engineering teams at the agriculture company will even start designing parts specifically for AM which could not be produced using traditional manufacturing processes.