Automation for food processing machinery
September 25, 2017 in Case study
Do you have a company that needs automation for food processing machinery? Then you are in the right place to figure out how to save money and time and increase your profit.
Idaho Steel is a 3D machine builder. Not too different from other manufacturers around the world, except for the fact that it needs a unique industry and has embraced 3D printing as a way to quickly create unique pieces for its machines.
The first step in Idaho Steel was to purchase a 3D Systems 3D ProX 500 printer for producing key production parts for its manufacturing machines. The ProX 500 delivers complete, complex and complete functional components for a variety of applications from aerospace, automotive, medical, and consumer goods. It uses DuraForm ProX, a durable nylon material, to produce components that are equivalent to or exceed the quality of the injection.
“3D SLS printing allows us to design superior strength and durability products” says Jon Christensen, marketing and sales manager at Idaho Steel. Then he continues. “Parts can also be designed to increase strength in ways that are not possible with traditional machining.”
The emphasis is on quality
Founded in 1918 in Idaho Falls, Idaho Steel produces, preserves and personalizes machines used to create potatoes in an almost infinite variety of sizes and shapes. If you eat fried potato, potato salad, potato mashed potatoes recently, there are good chances that they were produced with a Idaho Steel machine. According to the company itself, it is not uncommon to find Idaho Steel equipment that has been used since the ’60s.
The real Idaho Steel mission is therefore to personalize. Meeting the various customer needs is much easier with a high quality 3D print such as the 3D Systems ProX 500.
“We need to find a way to build shapes quickly for our customers,” says Alan Bradshaw, Idaho Steel CEO. “We’ve studied the alternatives and decided to buy the 3D Systems machine. Since then we have printed hundreds of parts from that machine for use in our other machines.”
“Another very important point” Christensen continues, “we have become recognizable for the quality of the equipment we send with our name” says Christensen. “We are an independent company, while our competitors can be more dependent on subcontractors, we also control how individual parts are created and united. 3D printing, in fact, gives us more control over individual parts, which ultimately helps us to provide level equipment higher in a much faster time. ”
A better product in less time
One of Idaho Steel’s first 3D printing applications for 3D printing is to customize the insertion of Nex-Gem Former machine inserts and pistons to form potato products in different shapes. The inserts and the pistons were previously made in five parts, machined in plastic and held together with 25 or more fixing elements. The use of multiple CNC operations and manual assembly required up to 250 hours – 25 working days – to complete a set of 16 pistons.
Idaho Steel now makes the same number of pieces in 90 hours practically unavailable earlier, with a continuous running time on its ProX 500.
“The machine can work all night or for a weekend, and so sized slippers only require three or four hours of work,” says Christensen. “3D printing not only saves time but also releases CNC machines that will be tied to this job for 25 days.”
The insert and the piston are made by the 3D printer as a complete assembly using the DuraForm ProX material, safe for 3D products.
“Much durability and durability of our 3D SLS printed parts is a result of 3D printing that eliminates the limitations of CNC mill production,” says Christensen. “Typically, weaknesses or potentially problematic areas are where the pieces had to be blocked due to such limitations.”
“Probably another important advantage of this unique approach,” the sales manager continues, “is the health benefit that comes from. We produce equipment for food production, and wherever we can remove transport areas and eliminate the potential risks of contamination, such as hooks, this is a huge advantage. In fact, the hardware can be overloaded and damage the parts contained. ”
3D passionate enthusiasts in automation for food-grade machines
Another part that Idaho Steel has transformed with 3D printing is a laser pocket that detects the material level of a hopper or container and transmits it to the control system. The production of this part was previously entrusted to another company but the quality did not conform to Idaho Steel standards.
Idaho Steel started printing the part on the ProX 500, providing significant improvements. The upper opening was made larger to facilitate access to the sensor, the corners were rounded and the casing was constructed as a single part with a plastic chain that connects the screw cap to the housing so that I can not get lost when it’s open.
“The new ways to create better parts with 3D printing always make it more flexible for our processes,” says Christensen. “We are always making new scrapers, plugs and sockets. These may not have a glamorous design, but they must no longer be treated with CNC in a simple but time-consuming process”
Christensen sees 3D printing and CNC as complementary tools for creating new parts: 3D printing is ideal for prototyping new designs, creating low-volume parts and assemblies, and customizing new parts for existing machines. CNC is still the most common option for simpler designs or larger parts produced at a higher volume.
“Our drivers were some of the most enthusiastic 3D printing people and are interested in seeing what the 3D printer can do and how it can be used to our advantage. They are coming up with parts they think are better than printed in 3D”
Clearly in the video, the Idaho Steel team demonstrates the benefits of 3D printing both at time and cost savings.
Christensen says that if Idaho Steel produces specialized machines, almost every machine shop can take advantage of 3D printing, especially when it comes to the important imperative of delivering a high quality piece in time and time.
“One of the biggest obstacles in the processing industry is the delivery time,” says Christensen. “A customer may have a preference for a vendor of a certain machine, but if the supplier is unable to provide the same for a particular project at a time, the customer will have to do so in another way with another vendor”
“A good example of working high pressure and with certain deadlines is our piston creation process. When our customers receive approval for the projects, they need these pieces, which could be of any shape that can be imagine, and need them immediately. Some of the shapes are quite complex and could take up to a month if they are made with a CNC machine but these times can be reduced to a week with the ProX 500. ”
Faster delivery, better quality, more customization, greater reliability – these are the things that every machine maker can achieve using 3D printers, regardless of the specialties produced by his machines.
“We are no longer limited by our standard and traditional machining tools,” says Bradshaw, Idaho Steel CEO. “We are limited by the imagination and creativity of our design team.”