Additive manufacturing slashes lead times for Fraser Engineering

Fraser Engineering, based in Wellington, New Zealand, is one of the largest machining shops in the country.

The company provides design and machining services for a range of local industries that vary from architecture to switching gear. The company prides itself as a low volume and prototyping specialist.

Fraser Engineering recently moved into the fire truck and appliances industry with the acquisition of a business specialising in the field.

The company now creates fully equipped fire trucks from the base chassis to suit a range of environments in New Zealand, Australia and neighbouring Pacific countries.

“All the components for the fire trucks are fitted in-house,” explains Martin Simpson, General Manager of Fraser Engineering.

“We like to maintain control over the whole build, to ensure that our design is to specification. As a result of the various tools, parts and components that are made, it makes Fraser Engineering one of the largest in-house fire truck builders in the world.”

In order to be competitive, it is important that Fraser Engineering can turn around design and build in a short period of time – speed to market is a key priority for the company.

To facilitate the need for speed, Fraser Engineering has turned to additive manufacturing to produce parts and prototypes.

The Stratasys Fortus 250mc supplied by 3D printer specialist Tasman Machinery has allowed Fraser Engineering to shorten lead times from many months to a matter of days.

“In the past, we would use a full range of CNC machines – lathes, turret punches, pressbrakes – to produce parts and prototypes, but with the Fortus 250mc 3D production system, we can now have something ready in a matter of days.

"We can potentially go to testing stage overnight if we need. It is a much more cost-effective and efficient method of producing prototypes,” says Simpson.

Customised mass production using 3D printing

Fire trucks have a surprisingly large number of plastic components, such as components for the roller doors.

Currently, Fraser Engineering is using the Fortus 250mc to produce parts for the roller doors at as many as 100 units per day, with the machine often running overnight.

“In the past, the part would have been produced using an injection mould,” Simpson explains. “With injection moulding we would need to create the tool which can take a few months and many thousands of dollars.

"If the design should change then we would throw the tool away and start again. With the Fortus 250mc we can change the design very quickly and easily. Once the design is finalised and proven, then injection moulding can take over producing the larger volumes of the parts.”

The range and complexity of a fire truck is largely dependent on the environment in which it is used. Metropolitan trucks will often have equipment and framework suited to a range of situations ranging from chemical emergencies to car accidents, but on relatively easy terrain. Rural trucks may be faced with extremely hot, unpredictable bushfires and require all-wheel drive.

Tasman Machinery supplies Stratasys’ patented FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling) and Objet Polyjet 3D Printers to the Australian and NZ markets.The Fortus 3D production system has given Fraser Engineering the flexibility to produce parts to suit the vast range of specifications that cannot be produced using traditional machining processes.

With an accuracy of 0.178mm, it has enabled Fraser to produce complex designs including delicate threads.

“We felt that the Fortus 250mc from Tasman Machinery was a well-built and well-designed machine. The world of additive manufacturing and 3D printing is evolving very quickly and the Fortus is up there with the best.

"It works well with the 3D CAD software we are using, so our designers can work directly with the machine. Tasman has a good reputation for leading technology in the area of additive manufacturing and their support has been excellent,” comments Simpson.

“Fraser’s are an excellent example of how 3D printing and additive manufacturing can help companies in their innovation and product development,” says Dermid McKinley of Tasman Machinery.

“By utilising the machine, not just for product development, but in the manufacturing process of the fire appliances, Fraser Engineering is an excellent example of how such technologies can add to a company’s agility and flexibility in its chosen fields of expertise.”

Tasman Machinery supplies Stratasys’ patented Fused Deposition Modelling  and Objet Polyjet  3D Printers to the Australian and New Zealand markets.