The sky’s the limit when it comes to 3D printing prototypes and the many industries to which it can lend a helping hand. Fromventilation systems to parking sensors, rapid prototyping can save companies precious time and money while they’re trying to turn their ideas into reality. Tampa-based industrial 3D scanning and printing solutions company EMS has teamed up with manufacturer K-Rain to change the shape of manufacturing in sprinkler nozzle development.
EMS is 3D printing accurate prototypes of sprinkler nozzle designs for the company, so K-Rain can test multiple nozzle designs more quickly and accurately before they actually go on the market, while also saving money. K-Rain manufactures gear-driven rotors, sprinklers, sprays, controllers, and valves for both the commercial and residential irrigation markets. They are committed to evolving and advancing nozzle flow rates, spray distance, and patterns.
Any changes made to a normal nozzle design can really mess up the flow rates and spray patterns, so any rotary nozzle performance advances made in engineering mean running the product through numerous testing cycles. In the past, K-Rain would send any nozzle development designs all the way to China, so sets of core pins could be created and sent to a local mold shop, to be inserted in mudbase molds. Then K-Rain would test the prototypes, make any necessary design adjustments, and repeat the lengthy process. Each cycle took about a month, and cost the company several thousand dollars. K-Rain engineers knew there had to be a better way.
K-Rain’s search for a process that could eliminate long prototype turnaround times and a high price tag led them to EMS. The company specializes in helping clients streamline product development, through the use of leading 3D technology. Their advanced 3D printing capabilities let K-Rain 3D print several designs at once, for hundreds of dollars, as opposed to thousands, and test the designs in just days, as opposed to weeks. This allowed the company to 3D print literally hundreds of nozzle designs before even thinking about the tooling of the product.
The prototype parts for the nozzle were printed on a 3D Systems professional ProJet 3500 HDMax MultiJet 3D printer, and were precise and strong enough to run in the actual rotor units, at volumes up to 8 GPM at 50-60 PSI. They also lasted long enough for K-Rain to collect all the necessary testing data.
3D printing prototypes for manufacturing is worth its weight in gold: companies have the potential to spend up to hundreds of thousands of dollars on tooling, only to realize the end product wasn’t quite right. EMS was the only 3D printing provider that could equip K-Rain with the accuracy required for the minuscule deflector component on their new rotary nozzle line. The deflector has wall thickness requirements in the .0008″ range, and surface quality that had to be comparable to molded plastic, so it was no easy feat. But by working with EMS, K-Rain has printed up to 50 deflector prototypes over the last several years, so they can pinpoint and work out product variations for different specialized applications.
By teaming up with EMS and moving to 3D printing, K-Rain has eliminated thousands of dollars from its product development costs, along with unnecessary months of development time, all without sacrificing the performance and accuracy testing of their important prototypes. This is yet another example of 3D printing affecting positive changes in the manufacturing world.