Schneider Electric 3D printing for digital transformation

By William Smith
Industrial giant Schneider Electric has partnered with 3D printing firm Stratasys to employ additive manufacturing in its Industry 4.0 implementation...

Industrial giant Schneider Electric has partnered with 3D printing firm Stratasys to employ additive manufacturing in its Industry 4.0 implementation.

Schneider’s ‘Smart Factory’ project is intended to harness the process optimising benefits of emerging technologies such as additive manufacturing and the industrial internet of things (IIoT) across its operations worldwide.

Stratasys 3D printing technology has been implemented at the firm’s Puente la Reina plant in Navarra, Spain, in particular FDM additive manufacturing, the kind most commonly employed involving the laying down of successive layers of plastic to build up an object.

In a press release, Manuel Otamendi, Industrialization and Maintenance Manager – Global Supply Chain at Schneider Electric’s Puente la Reina plant, said: “In the past year, using Stratasys FDM additive manufacturing we’ve achieved a saving of about €20,000 in the production of assembly-line tooling alone, which has easily paid off our original investment in the F170 3D printer. With this technology we’re able to produce new high-performance production tools in just one day, whereas it would have taken at least one week to outsource the same tools previously. This crucially reduces our dependency on suppliers and gives us much more control over tool production, which has increased the overall flexibility of our manufacturing process and accelerated our time-to-market for many products.”

Tools produced in the 3D printing process include assembly-line tools, jigs, fixtures, robot grippers and other end-of-arm tools, with their production previously being outsourced to third parties using injection molding and CNC processes. The company gave the example of an outsourced machine gripper costing €200 per tool, compared to €100 when 3D printed.

Yann Rageul, Director Manufacturing Solutions EMEA at Stratasys, said: “As we work our way through the global pandemic, we’ve seen clear indications that additive manufacturing can play a key role in enhancing the traditional supply chain and conventional production lines. As business leaders seek to reoptimize their operations, we expect to see an increase in company’s adopting the technology at a strategic level such as Schneider Electric, who continue to successfully drive digital transformation across the business. Not only does additive manufacturing enable them to increase flexibility within production and reduce dependency on suppliers, but it also opens up the ability to make significant operational efficiencies across product development. While this may be a common objective for most businesses, the impact of COVID-19 has amplified its importance even further.”

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