Haier Molds Co. (Haier Molds) is a subsidiary of the Haier Group in Qingdao, the leading home appliance brand in China. Headquartered in the Shandong province, Haier Molds constantly strives for innovation, aiming to improve environmental performance and bring consumer lifestyles into the future. Because of this, 3D printing has become an integral part of its business.
As the purchasing power of Chinese consumers rapidly increases, Haier Molds is seeking ways to stand out among the fierce competition. One of the company’s challenges is to meet the demand for innovative design and increase efficient production in a fast-paced market. Until recently, Haier Molds used traditional manufacturing methods, such as CNC, for prototyping, which required long turnaround times and extensive labor. Haier Molds recently switched to 3D printing and FDM® technology to minimize time to market and create more advanced designs.
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Haier Molds now only needs six hours to produce a balance ring prototype, compared with two working days using CNC machines.
“3D printing saved us up to 69 percent of prototyping time. It is a great leap for us in accelerating the product design validation process,” said Zhu. “Moreover, the printing job can be finished unattended overnight without compromising the quality.”
Accuracy is critical to Haier Molds’ geometrically complex components, such as balance rings and drain valves. With 3D printing, prototypes are produced in a single print, eliminating the measurement errors in programming and assembly in CNC procedures, and ultimately enabling accurate fit and form within a standard tolerance for small parts.
A small error in the production process can cause major delays for the whole business. But now Haier Molds can provide quick solutions using 3D printing technologies. For example, engineers temporarily replaced a broken fan blade in a crane with a new 3D printed part, minimizing downtime and business losses. Engineers 3D scanned the fan blade and 3D printed a replacement in just hours.
“The crane resumed service right away, and remained in operation for three months before the new fan blade arrived,” said Zhu. “Without 3D printing, we would have to wait for the new fan blade from the equipment vendor, which would have paralyzed the production and delayed final product delivery to customers. The Fortus 900mc™ helped resolve our production crisis in seven hours.”
Haier Molds is also exploring 3D printing applications in small-scale tailor-made mold productions to handle clients’ urgent requests.
“3D printing has enabled us to gain a more competitive advantage in the household appliances industry. We are excited to explore the new horizons this technology will bring in the near future,” Zhu said.