A world-leading fire truck outfitter is employing additive manufacturing and 3D printing techniques to produce prototypes and parts to service the fire appliances market.
The Stratasys Fortus 250mc 3D production system supplied by 3D printing specialist Tasman Machinery has allowed the NZ-based Fraser Engineering to shorten lead times from several months to a few days.
Fraser Engineering, based in Wellington, New Zealand is one of the largest machining shops in the country providing design and machining services for a range of local industries varying from architecture to switching gear.
Having moved into the fire truck and appliances industry with the acquisition of a business specialising in the field, the company now creates fully equipped fire trucks from the base chassis to suit a range of environments in New Zealand, Australia and neighbouring Pacific countries.
Martin Simpson, General Manager of Fraser Engineering explains that the company prefers to maintain control over the whole build to ensure the design is to specification. All the components for the fire trucks are made and fitted in-house, making Fraser Engineering one of the largest in-house fire truck builders in the world.
To remain competitive, Fraser Engineering needs to turn around design and build in a short period of time. To facilitate the need for speed, Fraser Engineering has turned to additive manufacturing to produce parts and prototypes. The Stratasys Fortus 250mc supplied by 3D printer specialist Tasman Machinery has allowed Fraser Engineering to shorten lead times significantly.
Fraser Engineering was previously using a full range of CNC machines including lathes, turret punches and pressbrakes to produce parts and prototypes. However the Fortus 250mc 3D production system allows them to get their products ready in a matter of days, potentially enabling them to go to testing stage overnight if required. Mr Simpson considers the 3D production system as a much more cost-effective and efficient method of producing prototypes.
Fire trucks have a surprisingly large number of plastic components, such as components for the roller doors. Currently, Fraser Engineering is using the Fortus 250mc to produce these parts at the rate of up to 100 units per day, with the machine often running overnight. The injection moulding process previously used by the company would require a tool to be produced, which could take several months and thousands of dollars. Any design change would require the whole process to start all over again.
The Fortus 250mc system allows them to change the design very quickly and easily. Once the design is finalised and proven, injection moulding takes over to produce larger volumes of the parts.
Fire trucks operate in different situations and environments; the complexity of their design would depend on these specific conditions. For instance, metropolitan trucks will often have equipment and framework suited to situations ranging from chemical emergencies to car accidents, but on relatively easy terrain while rural trucks may be faced with extremely hot, unpredictable bushfires and would require all-wheel drive.
The Fortus 3D production system has given Fraser Engineering the flexibility to produce parts to suit the vast range of specifications that cannot be produced using traditional machining processes.
According to Mr Simpson, the Fortus 250mc from Tasman Machinery is a well-built and well-designed machine, keeping pace with the rapidly evolving additive manufacturing and 3D printing technologies. The 3D production system works well with their 3D CAD software, allowing their designers to work directly with the machine.
Dermid McKinley of Tasman Machinery concludes by saying that Fraser’s is an excellent example of how 3D printing and additive manufacturing can help companies in their innovation and product development, and how these technologies can add to a company’s agility and flexibility in its chosen fields of expertise.