Shawcor, a leading Canada-based energy services company, is reaping the benefits of using composite additive manufacturing in its business. In fact, by implementing 3D printing for the production of strong, lightweight parts, the company is preparing to save $1.6 million CAD (roughly $1.2M).
Headquartered in Toronto, Shawcor has operations in a number of industries, including oil and gas, petrochemical, industrial, electrical, automotive and more. In short, the company supplies technology-based products, services and solutions that enable projects in these sectors to run smoothly and efficiently.
Recently, the Composite Production Systems division at Shawcor was given a new project that involved moving large tape pads weighing between 115 and 230 pounds. Impossible to transfer manually, the heavy tape pads required the development of a custom pick and place machine for handling the loading and unloading of the products.
However, the development of such a machine would require too many resources—specifically time and money. As Phil Minors, Senior Mechanical Designer at Shawcor, explained: “Without the pad handling machine up and running, Shawcor would lose roughly $1.6 million CAD over the course of a year. We had two choices: front the cost for the machine or lose revenue each month.”
Thankfully, a third option presented itself thanks to 3D printing, and specifically Markforged’s continuous strand carbon fiber additive manufacturing technology. Shawcor realized it could leverage the carbon fiber 3D printing technology to rapidly iterate the parts needed for the machine without resorting to more conventional (and more costly) processes and materials. That is, by using Markforged 3D printers instead of sheet metal fabrication and aluminum, the company saved $27,000 CAD (roughly $20,357 USD).
“We virtually eliminated the three-to-six-week turnaround time that existed for replacement parts”Phil Minors, Senior Mechanical Designer at Shawcor
A Mark Two 3D printer was used by the Shawcor team to produce a total of 53 unique parts for the custom tape pad loading machine, including fuse covers, end effector laser sensor mounts, mechanism covers, bump stops and motor mounts. 45% of the 3D printed parts were reinforced with Kevlar, HSHT fiberglass or carbon fiber, which helped to increase overall stiffness and durability.
Following the success of the tape pad machine development, Shawcor plans to use Markforged’s continuous carbon fiber printing technology for various applications. For one, it can use the technology to repaid broken components on the custom machine it developed. The Composite Production Systems engineering team is also using the 3D printer to prototype, test and iterate new parts.
Minors concluded: “People were blown away by the overall quality; they never thought they’d see printed parts being put on machinery that’s actually going to be used in a production manufacturing environment.”