3D Printing Innovation at Laclede Chain
While we’re still a ways away from actually 3D printing chain in mass quantities, we’ve been using this increasingly prevalent technology in our business since 2017. Here’s how we’re using it to innovate and help our customers grow.
Vetting New Designs and Configurations
Any engineer knows that what seems like a viable solution in a CAD drawing doesn’t always work in the real world. 3D printing allows our engineering team to test different designs and configurations before investing in production.
Preventing undesirable parts from entering the production stream saves time, money, and a lot of headaches. It also helps bring our customers peace of mind knowing that their configuration suits their needs and will work well in the field.
Customer Story: How 3D Printing Reduced Lead Times
Recently, we helped a customer whose plant is near our Maryville facility. They came to us requesting custom chain to fit a particular pocket wheel they were using in their application.
Because they didn’t need a large quantity, it didn’t make sense to produce a custom product. However, we were able to create and 3D print a new pocket wheel design that fit perfectly with our standard size chain. The customer took our pocket wheel model to another manufacturer and had it produced so that they could start using our chain—allowing them to use a superior chain product with shorter lead times.
Faster, Less Expensive Product Development
3D printing also enables rapid prototyping of new products at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods in much less time. Before 3D printing, new parts would need to be produced by either machining or casting, and the tooling required to create a prototype ran upwards of $7,000 in some cases, often with lead times in excess of 4 weeks. 3D printing has changed all of that. Let’s call this a convincing argument for embracing new technology!
Better, More Reliable Operations
We use in-house riveting equipment to convert some of our hooks into permanent assemblies for our customers. The tooling this equipment requires is intricate and difficult to machine—replacement parts often take 6-8 weeks for fabrication and shipment. If our equipment were to go down, we would have to stop production to wait for new parts.
Our engineering team figured out how to 3D print several key components for this piece of equipment. Now, new parts take a single night to print versus nearly two months to arrive. We’re able to assure better lead times on our riveting jobs and keep our commitments to our customers thanks to our team’s innovative use of 3D printing technology.
Do you have a special project that requires a custom chain solution? Laclede Chain’s engineering team is ready to help. Call us today at 800-325-2699 and let’s discuss how we can work together to bring your solution to life.