3D Print helps present innovative engineering

3D print helps explain complex structures.

Problem

Siemens is the largest engineering company in Europe, and a global powerhouse in electronics and electrical engineering. Its Energy Management Division had developed a revolutionary new Offshore Transformer Module (OTM), a huge piece of engineering which sits at the base of off-shore wind turbines, above sea level, and controls the flow of electricity into the grid.

Siemens wanted to illustrate its new design to potential clients as it would be one-third smaller than previous designs and up to 40% cheaper. They therefore required a physical model to talk over the key features of the design.  This model would have to be detailed, accurate and be colour coded to highlight different components.

During the early design stages they wanted a cost effective model that could be produced quickly so any changes could be incorporated.

Key challenges:

  • Accuracy and detail vital
  • A complex engineering structure
  • Colour-coding

Solution

Due to the complexity of the design and many different interlocking coloured components, Hobs proposed 3D printing the initial models on a Projet 660 Pro.  This powder-based 3D printer has the ability to show both fine details and print full-colour models, and is much faster than other technologies so would reduce the production time.

Siemens supplied the 3D files the engineers had used to design the OTM.  This meant the resulting print would be exactly to scale and highly detailed.  Using these 3D files the Hobs team converted and prepared the data for 3D printing in 10 hours. Due to the size of the model it was 3D printed in two pieces which could be assembled afterwards.  This also help transportation of the finished model.

Results

“The 3D printed models are a fantastic representation of a very complex structure.  The initial models made a great contribution towards us presenting this innovation and in securing a contract.  One of those models now has pride of place in the entrance area of our Manchester Office and is always a great talking point.”  Mark Rogers, Siemens plc.

Once the final design was agreed, a more robust and detailed model was requested for transporting abroad and use at exhibitions and trade shows.

For this final high-resolution version the original 3D designs were converted for 3D printing in a more rigorous way, to capture even smaller details.  This took 3 days.

The iPro 8000 Stereolithography machine was then used for the 3D printing, which produces plastic type parts that have a little bit of flexibility and so are more durable.  These parts were transparent, so the model was split into separate components by colour. Once 3D Printed the sections were sand blasted, masked and spray finished before the final assembly.

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