Headlines have been hot with 3D printing news, toying with opinions on how the technology could affect the everyday consumer experience. At Stellar, we’re seeing the value of 3D printing firsthand. For over a year now, we’ve been using 3D printers to provide our refrigeration clients with 3D models they can touch and feel–and it has proved to offer benefits for both sides of the table.
Stellar utilizes 3D printing during the initial design phase of refrigeration projects, specifically for skid-mounted refrigeration systems and refrigeration machine room designs. We’ll build the 3D model on our computer-aided-design (CAD) program , then will enter the information into one of our two MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printers (located at Stellar’s Jacksonville, Florida, headquarters).
We’ll print each of the individual pieces of the model to the colors that correspond with Stellar’s refrigeration piping color standards, each color representing a different refrigerant or type of surface. Then, we will put it together on a 3D model to present to our clients.
The 3D print serves as a fantastic complement to the model we’ll walk through with clients on the computer screen. We’ve found the model from the 3D printer makes the revision process from both sides much easier, breaking down the communication barriers that tend to arise with the computer models.
For instance, it’s easier to touch and point out something specific on a tangible, 3D model rather than on a flat screen. The client can also get a far better perspective of the design, perhaps noticing items in 3D they can’t in 2D such as potential clearance issues, space concerns, etc.
We also use these 3D models to hold our builders/fabricators accountable. When we make a 3D print, we’ll produce three models for:
- The client
- Stellar Design
- The builder/fabricator
The fabricator can then use the model to ensure the parts are installed correctly eliminating common issues that tend to come up in the construction process such as:
- Pipe routing
- Connection locations
One 3D model, many benefits
To recap, Stellar has found plenty of value in utilizing 3D printing technology for the following reasons:
Simplifies design feedback for the client
Complements computer models
Serves as an accountability tool for builders/fabricators
Reduces miscommunications during the revision process
The 3D print is something clients can touch and feel, and they love it.
How have you seen 3D printing utilized in your industry? What are your thoughts?
If you’d like to learn more about 3D printing, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.