We can all agree that developing and introducing new technologies is a great thing. However, after it’s understood how this new product or methodology works and where it’s applicable, the remaining quandary centers on who will be able to implement or use it.
|Rich Lute (left) and Bryan Lindic (right) stand next to Diebold’s Titan FDM machine from Stratasys, which is responsible for producing the rapid part prototypes that the two rely upon in cutting cycle times and speeding product development.|
In this instance, it shouldn’t be surprising that a company whose customers have included the president of Mexico, whose past chairmen entail the “untouchable” Elliot Ness, and whose products have been used to safeguard the U.S. Constitution, Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, are among the early adapters when it comes to in-house rapid prototyping.
Headquartered in North Canton, OH, Diebold, Inc. is a nearly 150-year-old company that manufactures and sells ATMs, voting machines and numerous other security devices around the world. The constant refinement and intense scrutiny of their products, from both design and durability perspectives, has made rapid prototyping a key element of their production process.
In a nutshell, rapid prototyping takes a product design file, usually in CAD form, and builds the part, layer by layer, with a specialized machine. Although similar to a three-dimensional printer, Diebold feels the use of their Statasys Titan’s fused disposition modeling approach (FDM) is more precise in producing intricate parts that often have to snap together in showcasing and scrutinizing their latest design.
Additionally, Diebold’s prototype parts are made of PCABS – a polycarbonate plastic that the company has found to be more durable than the resins and polymer blends often used in creating models. Diebold began using rapid prototyping four years ago to expedite the design phase of production, and reduce costs by not having to run their injection molding equipment or machining centers for preliminary parts. “Rapid prototyping has really been a great solution for us,” explains Diebold engineer Rich Lute. “We were using a 3-D printer, but it couldn’t get us the detail we needed for the plastic snaps that are often used in connecting different pieces. Machining is an option, but due to the intricacies of these parts, that process would take days and consume more material. Plus, we can design tooling off of a CAD model instead of having to build a mold for every prototype. So after running the prototype parts, we make changes to the design and only have to produce the tooling, fixtures and molds once. This approach has saved us a lot of time and money.”
|These two products fit the same need, with the one on the|
|left coming out of Diebold’s rapid prototyping machine, while the one on the right was machined. The primary difference: the one on the left took an hour-and-a-half to produce; the one on the right needed more than four hours.|
Typically, these prototype parts are facial panels and internal modules for the company’s ATMs and voting machines. They’re run in fairly low quantities of five to ten. With security, aesthetics and the need to perform without error being vital, rapid prototyping allows for the actual part to be produced without dedicating the time and cost-consuming measures of part production. One specific example for Diebold is the creation of circuit boards that can be used to check spacing and ensure that the right tolerances are in place to sync with the wiring and other components.
Bringing It HomePrevious to purchasing their own rapid prototyping machine, Diebold sent these jobs to outside vendors, including RedEye Mfg., a Minneapolis, MN subsidiary of Strasys that specializes in rapid prototyping and manufacturing. Although the relationship was effective to the tune of 1,200 different parts produced last year, the process still took three to four weeks per phase, with many parts undergoing three or four design changes.
Although Diebold, Inc. uses their rapid prototyping capabilities primarily for testing designs before mass production, its uses are not limited to these applications. Additional functions can include:
Replacement part production. Parts made from PPSF (polyphenylsulfone) were created to bring a laser cutter back into production the same day after the fan mechanism on the cutter broke.
Cable clamp tools. These tools are made from polycarbonate and are used to insert cable clamps into sheet metal. Diebold’s approach has reduced the cost by about five times that of the machined tool.
Assembly fixtures. These fixtures are set into the opening of a consumer keyboard. Personal identification number (PIN) pad shields are then placed over the fixture to ensure that the part is correctly positioned during the manufacturing process.
Machining fixtures. Machining fixtures can be created to hold parts in place while machining.
So while the right results were being achieved, this back-and-forth dynamic with RedEye was adding significant time to the production process. This pushed Lute and fellow project manager Bryan Lindic to champion the cause of bringing rapid prototyping in-house. Since making that decision, outsourcing has been reduced by about one-third, which helps cut costs and improve turn-around time. Additionally, what was being machined is now be run through the FDM process. This translates to about 98 percent of their prototypes being produced on the Stratasys Titan equipment.
With this unit running nearly non-stop for the last six months, due in-part to a networking capability that allows for monitoring its status from an off-site computer, Diebold is investigating the option of purchasing another machine. Lute estimates it took about 18 months to see a return on their first such investment.
Although this process has numerous benefits over previous prototype production methods, Lute and Lindic cite that it’s not quite ready for mass production, or the integration of rapid manufacturing for Diebold’s needs. Although quicker and more efficient in material use than machining most parts, it still takes longer and is cost-prohibitive when compared to injection molding for mass production. Completed parts also require cleaning and some finishing work to remove excess material. Additionally, this approach is only relevant to plastic parts, or those of a related composition.
However, as manufacturers look to trim cycle times and produce parts with greater accuracies, especially in the growing electronics and medical fields, rapid prototyping offers an option worth exploring. At the end of the day, new initiatives, like rapid prototyping, provide internal benefits like cost controls and improved cycle times, but they also offer insight to those companies who are interested in the latest ways to improve their offerings and processes. And in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace, these internal steps can produce great external results.
Here are some of the additional benefits that Rich Lute and Bryan Lindic have seen from implementing rapid prototyping at Diebold, Inc.: Remote monitoring allows for running the machine non-stop over nights and weekends. Comparable parts take about an hour, with set-up times of less than 5 minutes - as compared to 4-8 hours on a machining center. It is worth noting, however, that some taller parts (Z axis) take longer because of how the product is built with layers. Although materials are more expensive than metal or plastic, there’s less waste. Minimum training is needed. Models are generated at 1/10 the cost of injection molding, with a copper and nickel metal coating that can be added and finished for a more compete looking prototype.