SCC 3D Printing Program helps local businesses incorporate additive manufacturing through partnership with Dremel Tool and grant funds

Oct 26, 2017

mold from 3d printingWhen Dremel Tool (a division of the Bosch Tool Corporation) heard about Somerset Community College’s (SCC) undertaking to introduce local businesses to the advantages to 3D printing, they wanted to be part of the effort.

Dremel recently reached out to Eric Wooldridge, a licensed Mechanical Engineer and coordinator of SCC’s additive manufacturing/3D printing program, to find out more about how the college is working with local businesses through a National Science Foundation (NSF) and USDA Rural Development grant. The grant allows the college to provide a free additive manufacturing (also called 3D) demonstration project directly related to that company’s field of interest.

The grant, titled Additive Manufacturing: Expanding Futures in Appalachia, is being used to help companies integrate 3D printing into their everyday manufacturing, said Wooldridge. Currently, SCC is working on half a dozen projects with local companies to utilize this new technology.

3d printing machine“Dremel found out about us by just searching 3D printing in Kentucky, and we hit at the top of the list,” said Wooldridge. “After a few phone conferences, they decided to assist with our project by providing SCC with a Dremel 3d45 printer for training and experiments, providing a platform for case studies and data distribution, assisting the college with expanding its network and reach, and partnering on future grant expansion opportunities.”

In addition, each company that works with SCC will have access to a Dremel 3D printer in their own organization for 30 to 60 days, free of charge, Wooldridge said.

"Dremel really stepped up to help with this initiative,” Wooldridge said. “Once we get the opportunity to show local businesses how this technology can help their bottom line and production, they are excited to integrate it into their factories and offices. Giving them access to a quality printer helps get them off and running so they can incorporate 3D printing in numerous aspects of their operations.”

Companies such as Hearthside Food Solutions (HSF) in London have been pleased with the results of their experiments with SCC, Wooldridge said, and plan to expand using 3D/additive manufacturing technology in the future.

HSF worked with SCC to print several equipment pieces, most notably a funnel that is used to pipe baked goods through a metal detector system used to prevent any shillings or metal machine fragments from being packaged with food items. The funnel must be made of FDA approved Nylon material. According to Wooldridge, HSF had 16 machines that used the funnel and, at minimum, approximately eight of the funnels needed to be replaced per year at a cost of $800 each, totaling $6,400 plus shipping per year.

SCC was able to show HFS how to design and produce a piece to replace the funnel by printing it, decreasing the cost of each funnel to approximately $40 each and saving the company thousands in just four months, said Wooldridge.

“HSF has already begun on-site funnel production using the 3D printer system we helped them set up,” Wooldridge said. “They have worked with us to train employees on how to use the machines and are thrilled that since the machine can operate 24 hours a day, their equipment investment can be paid back within its first week of operation. In the future, HSF plans to report the results of our trial and study to its 23 other plants, located throughout the U.S. and Europe.”

In addition, other companies like Gorilla Lift, a local company that produces products that help raise and lower tailgates with minimal effort, is working with SCC to speed up the “concept to reality” process for a new safety bumper.

“By working with SCC, we have a demonstration sample that we can send out for production review much quicker,” said Jason Norfleet, Gorilla Lift owner. “The process of printing on 3D machines and reviewing the design concept has only taken us about two months, whereas it would have taken a year at our manufacturing plant overseas. In a competitive business such as ours, time is money, so being able to quickly implement new ideas quickly is important.”

Wooldridge said other companies can do exactly what HSF and Gorilla Lift have done – implement a new idea, improve an old one, or optimize existing equipment by working with 3D printing.

“We are open to working with any manufacturing or service companies in our area,” said Wooldridge. “The first demonstration project we do for each company is free. That shows how much we believe in the importance of this technology and want businesses in our area to be trained and ready for upcoming changes in domestic and global manufacturing related to 3D printing.”

Wooldridge said continual 3D printing announcements and breakthroughs being made by large companies like like GE, Airbus, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Boeing and Amazon.

“The FDA is approving one 3D printing related medical procedure after another,” Wooldridge said. “And governments are starting to create entire economic strategies based around the technology. There is just too much at stake, and we can’t wait around and allow these incredible opportunities for growth as an industrial region pass us by.”

To contact Wooldridge, email Eric.Wooldridge@kctcs.edu.