Additive Manufacturing reduces fixture costs by 65%

Oreck uses PC thermoplastic to create custom assembly pallets for its commercial vacuum business. Oreck uses Additive Manufacturing extensively to produce prototypes, specialized assembly tools and CNC milling fixtures.

For every series of vacuum that Oreck Manufacturing makes, it produces 40 to 50 identical assembly pallets. This was the case for the company’s Titanium Series, the XL21 upright commercial vacuum. This high-end unit provides the user with features such as hypo-allergenic filtration, adjustable two-speed motor and advanced sound-dampening technology.

The production floor pallets secure the top cover of the vacuum in a precise position so that the vacuum can be assembled quickly and easily. After placing the motor, fan housing and other support components into the stationary top cover, the bottom cover is attached.

Simplified Assembly

Each assembly fixture consists of four plastic posts that attach to a standard Bosch assembly pallet. Besides being specifically aligned to accept the cover housing, the fixture components maintain tolerances of 0.003 inch (0.0762 mm) so that the cover is held firmly in place.

Oreck’s engineering team designs the components needed for each fixture using standard CAD tools. According to Oreck Senior Model Maker Bill Fish, “Designing the fixture components is fairly easy. We already have a file for standard support posts. So, we add the 3D top cover, embed it into the support post, then blow away the cover. The whole job takes about an hour and a half.”

In the past, Oreck used only traditional methods to produce the assembly fixtures. These included silicone or epoxy molds andurethane castings with inserts. Several years ago Oreck added two large Stratasys 3D Production Systems, which use FDM Technology. With FDM, Oreck has the option of using additive manufacturing to create the fixtures, which they take advantage of whenever possible.

“Using additive manufacturing reduces fixture production costs by up to 65 percent, because we produce the fixtures in-house, with some traditional fixture projects costing over $100,000, the savings can be substantial.”

At this rate, machines can pay for themselves with just a small number of projects.

3D Printing for the Whole Business

3D printing the pallet assembly fixture is only the beginning. Maintaining the pallets in a tough production setting is as important as getting original parts. “If for some reason a fixture component is chipped or broken during use, we can replace it quickly and easily in-house. Anything that takes a pallet off line costs us money,” said Fish.

“We keep the Stratasys systems working 24/7,” said Fish. Besides creating fixtures, Oreck uses FDM technology extensively to produce prototypes, as well as models for marketing photos and commercials. “We also use the machines to produce specialized assembly tools, CMM (coordinate measuring machine) fixtures engineering test fixtures and CNC milling fixtures. We also make complete mockups. The machines are only limited by your imagination.”


PC Production-grade Thermoplastic

A true industrial thermoplastic, PC (polycarbonate) is widely used in automotive, aerospace, medical and many other applications. PC offers accuracy, durability and stability, creating strong parts that withstand functional testing.

PC has superior mechanical properties to ABS and a number of other thermoplastics. When combined with a Stratasys 3D Printer, PC gives you strong parts for conceptual modeling, functional prototyping, manufacturing tools, and production parts. PC runs the Xtend 500 Fortus Plus option, which enables more than 400 hours of unattended build time.

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Traditional Molding
& Casting
Savings$65,000 (65%)