Based in Ferndale, Washington, Cutsforth Inc. designs and manufactures electric power plant equipment for for some of the world’s largest power companies, including National Grid, Pacific Gas and Electric, ExxonMobil, Shell and General Electric.
Electric generators, running 24/7, create one of the harshest conditions imaginable for parts. Innovative designs and meticulous attention to detail throughout the entire design and manufacturing process ensure that Cutsforth’s products can withstand the stress and their parts are built to last.
Heat, chemicals and grimy debris are usually not the kind of environments where you would expect to see plastics. Metals such as stainless steel and copper, which are more suited to these types of environments, are used in most of the company’s designs, but plastics provide insulation and other characteristics that Cutsforth needs to create their superior products. Keep in mind that these are no ordinary plastics – these are very expensive plastics that have high strength and stiffness, and are heat, solvent and flame resistant.
All of Cutsforth’s plastic parts are now either CNC machined or injection molded. So where does 3D printing come into play?
Jason Kammerer, Engineering Manager at Cutsforth; and Andrew Edman, Applications Engineer at Formlabs; will be joining me on Thursday, September 27 (1 p.m. EDT) for a live webinar on “Machine Design With 3D Printing.”
- Show you how Cutsforth uses Onshape and the Form 2 printer to generate ROI
- Demonstrate the simple process from CAD to final 3D printed parts using Onshape and the Form 2 printer
- Share tips on how to streamline your own production line with advanced design and 3D printing techniques
CNC machining and injection molding are both lengthy and costly processes, so getting a design right the first time is vital. Cutsforth credits switching to Onshape as its primary CAD system and using Form 2 3D printers from Formlabs as two critical factors in streamlining their manufacturing. They get the “form and fit” right with the printed prototypes and then use CNC machining or injection molding for the final product.
“CNC machining of some of these parts is complicated and expensive and adds days to the development cycle, but with the 3D printer we can have a couple of prints done in a day,” says Kammerer. “We can design all day in Onshape, hit ‘Go’ on the Formlabs printer at the end of the day and come back first thing in the morning to a physical object that we can evaluate and make further changes to until the product is right.”
“The main benefits we see are speed of prototyping,” he adds. “We do use 3D printing to evaluate ergonomics and usability, but it’s mainly used for testing multiple design iterations and for validating the end product before investing in tooling and long lead times. Reducing the design cycle and tooling costs is critical for Cutsforth and for our customers.”
After a successful pilot, Cutsforth made the decision to switch their entire design team from SOLIDWORKS®️ to Onshape. Ease of use, real-time collaboration and built-in data management were the main drivers behind this decision.
“When working with customers to devise a solution, Onshape’s collaboration tools have proved invaluable,” says Kammerer. “Having a 3D model on screen, spinning it around and showing our parts installed on their generator removes any communication barriers. There’s a lot less email, a lot less confusion and in the end, we’re delivering a quicker and more accurate product.”
“One of the biggest ways Onshape helps us is the built-in versioning and branching. If we’ve made some 3D prints and something isn’t quite right, we’ve always got a version we can go back to and take what we’ve learned to make the next iteration better,” he adds.
Want to hear more about streamlining your manufacturing operation with 3D printing? Join me, Jason and Andrew next Thursday by clicking the webinar button below. There will be plenty of time for Q&A. We look forward to talking with you soon!