3D Printing Enables A. O. Smith to Cut Time-To-Market, Reduce Development Costs, Drive Higher Sales

Today’s blog is by Julie Reece, 3D Systems Director of Marketing Communications.

I thoroughly enjoy hearing new stories from our channel partners and my sales colleagues about organizations that that reply on our 3D printing technology to grow their businesses. Here’s a story about A. O. Smith Corporation, a leading global manufacturer of water heating equipment. A. O. Smith is creating more attractive and energy-efficient water heaters through its advanced new product development process, which integrates 3D printing solutions from the company’s full-color professional 3D printers.

Using a ZPrinter® to create prototypes in-house, A. O. Smith is shaving weeks off product development, saving substantial cost as well as time. This enables them to iterate more productively and thoroughly refine designs, according to the R&D team.

“Instead of commissioning aluminum molds or sending out to busy contractors for plastic models, we can produce our own high-resolution color prototypes for a fraction of the cost,” said A. O. Smith CAD Supervisor, Steve Wood, from the company’s Johnson City, TN, manufacturing facility. “When a trial design isn’t perfect, we quickly revise it and print another 3D model, or we create several different prototypes at the same time. Our ZPrinter gives us the flexibility to make real-time changes and react quickly to our customers’ demands.”

An aluminum mold, including setup and prototype production, can be costly, consuming as much as six weeks from the company’s design cycle before the first part is produced. Worse, if the prototype doesn’t work, a significant design revision can require a new mold and another cycle of waiting. With its ZPrinter 650® 3D printer, A. O. Smith can print multiple prototypes reflecting a wide range of design alternatives in a few hours at a significant cost reduction.

A. O. Smith expected the ZPrinter® to pay for itself quickly, but is happily finding that the return on the ZPrinter investment exceeds even its expectations. “Because we’re finding it increasingly valuable as time goes on – and thus are using it more,” stated A. O. Smith CAD Operator, Robert Anest, “it is sure to pay for itself sooner than we thought.”

In addition to printing prototypes, A. O. Smith is printing molds for the production of plastic molded parts – again avoiding costly aluminum molds. According to Wood, “To produce prototypes from our own molds, we’re spending less money and time.”

The integration of A. O. Smith’s ZPrinter® 650 3D printer has not just been a cost savings. “It’s both a unique and an effective sales tool,” said Wood. “Our customers and partners love them – for one thing, they don’t have to lug around a 200-pound water heater. And we’re getting great feedback from everyone involved.”

Do you have a great success story using 3D Systems 3D printing technology that you’d like to share? Post it here or email me at julie.reece@3dsystems.com.

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