3D printing agricultural machinery parts: realistic or not?

Production and delivery agricultural machinery components is difficult and time-consuming. 3D printing might be a resolution, but how practical is this?

In new a long time, 3D printing has taken off. The relatively new production strategy can transform digital files into tangible objects that are developed up layer by layer by the 3D printer. Typically this is done with plastic, but some printers can print metallic or ceramic.

Minimal demand from the agricultural sector

3D printing has been about for various several years, yet there is nonetheless minor desire from the agricultural sector, say Jimmy Gies and Luuk Wissink of Dutch business K3D. At their enterprise steel sections in stainless metal, aluminium, and device steel have been rolling out of the printer for several years.

The firm now employs 6 total-time employees who are concerned in printing and the procedures surrounding it, these kinds of as products growth. More than 90,000 programs have now been printed in metallic at K3D, intended for a multitude of sectors.

On the other hand, there have been rarely any orders from the agricultural sector. “We did as soon as print a part for an asparagus picker. This involved a advanced shape for hinges. Some prototypes have been printed, but that’s about it,” states Wissink.

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WUR researcher Bram Veldhuisen sees opportunities for parts of control devices in tractors. Developing a special injection mould is very expensive. Moreover, some farmers are already experimenting with 3D parts. Farm reader Timo Scholten used a 3D printed gear for an RTK GPS autopilot that he built himself based on a shopping list and manuals on https://cerea-forum.de. - Photo: Hans Prinsen

WUR researcher Bram Veldhuisen sees possibilities for pieces of regulate devices in tractors. Developing a particular injection mould is really costly. Also, some farmers are previously experimenting with 3D pieces. Farm reader Timo Scholten used a 3D printed equipment for an RTK GPS autopilot that he developed himself dependent on a browsing record and manuals on https://cerea-discussion board.de. – Photograph: Hans Prinsen&#13

Printing of significant parts a possibility

Agricultural machines are usually designed up of greater areas. “For that explanation, it is understandable that companies do not arrive knocking on our doorway,” states Wissink. The steel printer from K3D steel is suited for objects of 420 x 420 x 400 millimetres, but in the Netherlands, there are metal printers that can make big pieces. Wissink: “In the shipbuilding world, they print pieces that are 1 meter by a person meter. So, it is probable.”

Sections for agricultural machinery need to not be a dilemma&#13

Gies and Wissink them selves see several boundaries for agricultural equipment areas, but according to the men, 3D printing is an unknown industry in the agricultural sector. “We are presently producing areas for the automotive sector, the superior-tech market, aerospace, and offshore. And of class, the bread baking field. Elements for agricultural equipment really should not be a difficulty.”

When time is of the essence, or when pieces are notably costly or complicated to get hold of, Wissink and Gies take into account 3D printing of pieces a excellent selection. “You limit the delivery time, and you can very easily replace objects with put on – or make improvements to sections of older machines that are no more time readily available.”

Negatives with significant production figures

3D printing businesses are thus joyful to work for the agricultural sector, but it is not promptly obvious. Researcher Bram Veldhuisen of Wageningen University & Exploration certainly sees prospects for 3D printing in agricultural mechanisation, but he also perceives boundaries. “And frankly, I even question if 3D printing will ever be greatly made use of in the agricultural sector. There are considerable downsides, specifically for superior output figures.”

According to Veldhuisen, creating a portion with a 3D printer fees is comparatively time-consuming and high priced when compared to normal output, where sections are made on the assembly line. For illustration, nozzles, which occasionally go in the thousands. “Once you as a supplier have the proper manufacturing materials these kinds of as moulds, you only have to pay for the substance. With a 3D print, each and every product or service expenses a somewhat large total of time and vitality.”

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3D printers today can print in many materials and different sizes. Also in stainless steel, aluminium, and tool steel. - Photo: Hans Prinsen

3D printers currently can print in quite a few materials and various measurements. Also in stainless steel, aluminium, and instrument metal. – Photo: Hans Prinsen&#13

Possibilities primarily in manage equipment

“However, when it comes to unique sections that are not sold in large quantities, such as a joystick for running a tractor, Veldhuisen does see possibilities. “There are joysticks that perhaps 300 are made of for each year. Building a unique injection mould for such a element is incredibly high priced,” suggests Veldhuisen. “With a 3D printer you do not have all those prices. It is therefore an desirable resolution for such predicaments. You can also deliver joysticks and handle devices totally in accordance to the customer’s needs, the place they typically have to make do with the joystick they get from a supplier.”

CNH Industrial expands 3D printing business

Main suppliers this sort of as CNH Industrial appear to be to be getting the developments all-around 3D printing critically. A several decades ago, Agrifac already manufactured the Milan Sprayer with elements that were being manufactured by 3D printers, to build the most compact installation space. CNH Industrial also has 3D printing in mind, states Thibaud Feneuil. The business has expanded the use of 3D printing technology in various regions about the past 3 a long time.

At CNH Industrial, 3D printing is referred to as additive production. It is at the moment being employed to help the creation of spare components. “We do this to meet up with purchaser requirements, specially sections with a extended-phrase lifestyle cycle.” In addition, 3D printers are made use of in mould improvement and in the production of electrical elements.

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3D printing entrepreneurs themselves see opportunities in the agricultural sector in cases where parts must be obtained with great haste or are very expensive or difficult to obtain. By making 3D parts on location, delivery times are shorter and objects with wear can be replaced quickly. 3D parts can also be a solution for older machines that sometimes have parts that are no longer available. - Photo: Henk Riswick

3D printing business owners on their own see options in the agricultural sector in conditions in which components have to be acquired with terrific haste or are very high-priced or hard to acquire. By creating 3D pieces on location, shipping and delivery times are shorter and objects with don can be replaced speedily. 3D components can also be a option for older machines that at times have parts that are no lengthier offered. – Image: Henk Riswick&#13

Avoid overstocking

“One of the rewards is that with 3D printing, the lead time of the production method is shortened, which boosts product availability for us,” states Feneuil. According to him, 3D printing also allows CNH Industrial to keep away from overstocking. In this way, wastage of device investments is prevented. “The shortcomings are however the cost for each component when as opposed to conventional production. In addition, the common frame of mind will have to also alter, so that we start out building areas in a distinct way. The purpose of the component ought to appear 1st.”

Superior development probable

CNH Industrial for that reason appears to be to see likely in the new generation technological innovation, and the enterprise will increase its 3D printing routines even more, Feneuil reveals. “We are expanding our internal printing ability in the coming years, but we are also expanding our network of specialised services companies so that they can assist the printing of our goods. We assume 3D printing has superior advancement prospective. As technological innovation carries on to increase, the high quality of our merchandise improves, and large approach repeatability becomes achievable. In time, it could swap conventional manufacturing with a low to medium production volume in sure regions.”

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Major suppliers such as CNH see potential in 3D printing and have expanded their activities in this field in recent years. - Photo: Hans Prinsen

Main suppliers this kind of as CNH see potential in 3D printing and have expanded their routines in this discipline in the latest years. – Picture: Hans Prinsen&#13

Granit Components: prospects for classic vehicles

Back again in the Netherlands, Peter Dekkers of areas provider Granit Areas thinks that the market place is presently unfamiliar with 3D printing. “3D printed components often look unique and that may bring about confusion. Customers are not common with it however, but I feel that this also applies to producers. Of class, these forms of developments require significant investments. Corporations by natural means think carefully ahead of investing. In addition, all output procedures, these types of as the moulds from brands, are still geared to the recent functioning process.”

Dekkers also wonders no matter whether suppliers will be so eager on the enhancement. The potential should show that, he suggests. Soon after all, there is generally also very good funds to be produced on spare components. He sees alternatives for elements that are no lengthier offered for, for example, old-timers.

His colleague Helge Morgenstern, the head of Granit Parts’ exploration division FRICKE Innovation Lab in Hamburg, states that the organization has now obtained its individual 3D printer for people. “With this, we attempt to make the subject accessible to colleagues during the enterprise. We invite them to try out matters out and make them aware of the affect of 3D printing on our enterprise and our customers. There are also ideas to location a much more professional 3D printing software at our head place of work in Heeslingen, to investigate 3D steel printing, among other points.”

Influence on the trade in agricultural elements

Morgenstern thinks it is even now a bit early to predict how significantly impact the technological know-how will have on the trade in areas in the agricultural sector. “But I’m really sure that early prototyping and device development will see considerable alter in the coming a long time, as many items will be possible with 3D printing that just weren’t probable right until now.”

He sees likely for the availability of products and solutions and the trustworthiness of deliveries. As far as Morgenstern is worried, mastering and finding what is probable these days and in the long run is paramount. “We are presently investing hundreds of thousands in our electronic procedures and logistics to make spare areas obtainable the upcoming working day for all of Europe. Our consumers likely will not have a 3D printer in their workshop in the coming decades, but it’s possible in the future suppliers will send us creating plans with important areas. These can then be generated with us in Heeslingen on a ‘farm’ of specialised 3D printers.”

Generating agricultural machinery lighter

Can 3D printers also make agricultural equipment lighter in the foreseeable future, so that, for instance, difficulties associated to soil compaction can be prevented? Veldhuisen thinks this will be complicated. “It is in truth true that components from agricultural machinery are on the major side. Normal sizes are utilised. For illustration, a plate is 3 to 8 millimetres thick. The automotive marketplace works with a fraction of that thickness. Of course, so quite a few cars and trucks are manufactured that it is doable to help you save material in this way. That does not apply to agricultural equipment.”
As much as Veldhuisen is concerned, it is needed to meticulously think about when 3D printing provides a thing in each software. “It provides something to plastic areas of management aspects, but I do not see it nevertheless with a lot of goods these kinds of as spray nozzles.”

Ellen C. McGowan

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