Sometimes it makes sense to use 3D printing to repair machines.
That was the conclusion of a project undertaken by Bentax, a coffee solutions provider, and the Danish Technological Institute.
The problem was that Bentax had a growing pile of broken coffee machines, with a very common problem: the milk pump had failed. As that was an expensive component of the device, it made little sense to buy replacement pumps and install them. Thus there was considerable production of new equipment taking place, while nearly-usable-but-broken machines laid aside. 3Druck writes:
“When servicing coffee machines, Bentax found a problem with the milk pump where some parts wear out quickly. This is a big expense as you cannot get replacement parts for the pump and therefore have to buy a new pump from the supplier. This has resulted in Bentax now having a large pile of unusable milk pumps that actually work fine except for two worn out parts.”
It turns out that the milk pump is the heart of the machine: if it doesn’t work properly, other components can also fail. This led to a higher failure rate than Bentax wanted, around ten percent.
The project sought to test whether it was possible to 3D print replacement parts for the broken pumps that would be less expensive than buying new pumps outright.
It turns out that this is indeed possible. They were able to 3D scan the parts and attempt reproduction using a variety of techniques, including 3D printing.
Bentax’s Anders Myrup explained:
“The results we saw exceeded all expectations and when we held the parts in our hands, nobody could really believe they were 3D printed. It went far beyond what we thought possible. So we clearly didn’t have enough insight into the technology.”
Bentax is still refining the process of making these parts so that they are a perfect fit, but the point has been made with that company. From now forward, it’s likely this company will consider more advanced solutions to common problems.
This is a scenario that is surely not unique. There are countless companies around the world that could benefit from use of 3D print technology to simplify their workflow, reduce costs, speed up timelines and get ahead of competitors.
While this scenario had a great ending, the same is not the case for thousands of other companies that simply don’t have sufficient awareness or opportunity to participate.
If you happen to encounter a company that could benefit from 3D printing, why not point that out to them? They may not otherwise know there’s a good option for them to consider.
Via 3Druck (Deutsche) (Hat tip to Benjamin)