Roush Enterprises (Livonia, MI) decided to go big with 3D printing.
The company spent $4.5 million over 14 months on five additive manufacturing machines, software, facility upgrades and engineering personnel and equipment.
Roush’s most expensive acquisition was a $2 million Xline 2000R powder-bed metal additive system from General Electric Co.’s Concept Laser. The machine has a build envelope of 800 x 400 x 500 mm, enabling 3D printing of engine blocks and other large parts.
“When you have a bigger build envelope, it opens up the parts catalogue,” said Brandy Badami, business development manager-additive manufacturing for Roush. “We can print in the hundreds of thousands” of parts.
Privately held Roush does business in the auto industry, defense, entertainment (amusement park rides), aerospace, oil and gas and motorsports sectors. Founder Jack Roush, 75, is a prominent NASCAR team owner.
“He’s all for it,” Badami said of Jack Roush. “We print parts for his (restored) planes. Jack knows that 3D printing is the future and he’s excited about the possibilities.” The company’s additive manufacturing also supports the Roush race team, including printing parts, fixtures, jigs and gages.
The 3D printing operation is based in Farmington, MI. The company had performed 3D printing with plastics for about 15 years. As part of the recent investment, Roush acquired two large fused deposition modeling machine to print thermoplastic parts.
“They wanted to make the jump into metals,” Badami said. “It made sense to bring that in-house.”
Roush decided to purchase the Concept Laser machine for automotive, aerospace and other projects. The machine initially did printing for Roush in Germany. It was delivered to Roush in Michigan in December. During the early part of this year, it was making test runs of parts, Badami said.
Until now, automotive has lagged other industries such as aerospace in embracing 3D printing for production. The auto industry deals with larger volumes of parts compared with aircraft.
Newer machines, such as the Concept Laser machine, “allows automotive to seriously take a look,” Badami said. “It says, ‘What’s your excuse now?’ It really is made for continuous throughput.”
The machine uses two 1000 watt lasers. Badami said it can print an engine block in two weeks. The company also is doing work for self-driving vehicle projects. Badami said she couldn’t discuss specifics. But additive manufacturing opens up possibilities, she said. “It could be the interior. It could be building a shell of a vehicle.”
Roush’s 3D printing capabilities are also being utilized on aerospace projects. Badami said a client she couldn’t identify is working on a next-generation cryogenic propulsion system. A key component “had to be printed as a single part.”
For now, Roush is looking to expand its use of 3D printing.
“We really wanted to add to our tool kit,” she said. “We know additive is the way to accelerate design engineering.” Roush’s goal, she said, is to become “a Tier 1 additive manufacturing production supplier.”
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