Caterpillar’s continued focus on additive manufacturing, or 3D printing as it’s more commonly referred to, is to bring the additive manufacturing technology from a prototype solution to a main manufacturing method and to use the technology to keep our customers and factories running optimally. In order to make this a reality, we have several concurrent work streams including the following:
- Design for Additive Manufacturing - Design for additive is the key to exploit the 3D printing technology and to make a leap in what our products can do, offering solutions we never imagined possible. We are actively working to train our product design engineers and put the tools in place to facilitate design for additive manufacturing.
- Service Parts – Advancements in the 3D printing technology will soon make it possible for us to print a part right on the job site as a permanent solution. Until these advancements become a reality, we continue to pursue opportunities that make business sense to print low volume service parts or service parts were the supply chain has been interrupted.
- Prototypes and Tooling – We have a long history of utilizing 3D printing for prototypes and manufacturing tools. We continue to take advantage of the benefits additive manufacturing offers in this area as a visualization tool as well a resource for cost effective manufacturing tools that cannot be obtained in any other manner.
- Partnerships - In order to move faster than we historically have, we are actively pursuing varying levels of partnerships with leaders in this area. Partnerships range from people with expertise in printers and printing, design, and new technology.
- Additive Manufacturing Factory - In December 2015, we opened our Additive Manufacturing Factory in Mossville, IL. This state of the art factory represents adaptation to changing manufacturing environments. It is an additional tool that is intended to be used in conjunction with other manufacturing technologies to help utilize the right technology for the situation. The Additive Manufacturing Factory has two primary functions.
- First, it's a lab for our engineers to learn on production capable equipment.
- And second, it's set up as a mini-production factory (hence the name) with the ability to fulfill production orders on production machines.
- Research and Development – Our long term commitment to additive manufacturing is seen in our continual investment in research in this area.
For more information contact Seth Johnson, Johnson_Seth_M@cat.com