Jung & Co implements the "spare parts on demand" concept in the beverage industry thanks to metal 3D printing
German Jung & Co, a specialist in stainless steel components, is realying on 3D Printing or Additive Manufacturing to ensure that spare parts for beverage filling plants are available more quickly.
At Jung & Co. the primary focus is on using stainless steel, aluminum and titanium as materials. The traditional methods of machining have now been expanded to include additive manufacturing using the metal laser melting process with an M2 cusing Multilaser 3D printer from Concept Laser. “We deliver stainless steel solutions across all processes and consistently focused on the application. The parts or assemblies that we produce are conventionally machined, manufactured in hybrid fashion or completely additively. The customer receives a precision end product from one single source providing a full service.” says Thomas Lehmann, Managing Director of Jung & Co.
After its initial experiences of additive manufacturing, Jung & Co. has gone one step further to achieve “spare parts on demand.” Thomas Lehmann says: “Initially our customers thought: What a crazy idea. Far too expensive. Won’t work. So we first had some persuading to do.” The concept of “spare parts on demand” caught on because the economic facts were undeniable. The idea of the Additive Manufacturing of spare parts for beverage filling plants caught on.
In the beverage filling industry, high availability and flexibility are a must, as well as speed. If a line is shut down due to a failure, its profitability quickly diminishes. Finding the fault, requesting a spare part, shipping and installing it – in a worst case scenario this can take a few days and result in delays to deliveries to the trade. Depending on the size and output of the entire filling line, an hour of lost production may cost from around 4,000 to 30,000 euros.
The filling company must then find some way of switching to other filling lines and then first adapt them to handle the particular bottles or cans. These are stressful situations for a production manager, and he and his team are of course keen to avoid them. “We said to customers: Things don’t need to be like this. Additively manufactured stainless steel parts can be printed as required and also have their design optimized. Most customers were initially disbelieving because we were presenting such a revolutionary idea.” says Lehmann.
Thomas Lehmann, who engaged with the laser melting of stainless steel in collaboration with the technology pioneer Concept Laser at a very early stage, was clear: An additive solution can mean great freedom of geometry, coupled with a CAD design that suits the process. In addition, parts or entire assemblies can be created as a one-shot design. If the filling company requires a new can filler valve, the components can be manufactured promptly using CAD data and fitted at the customer’s premises so that the downtimes are drastically reduced.
“3D metal printing enables short machine downtimes for the beverage fillers that previously seemed impossible. A new 3D design and rapid availability saves the customer time and money.” The example chosen by Lehmann relates to a filler valve in a can filling plant. The production of spare parts for beverage filling plants is one of the specialties of the company from the German town of Pinneberg. Many of these spare parts are not standard components, but rather customer-specific solutions. If it is manufactured by conventional means, the assembly consists of seven components made of stainless steel 1.4404 which need to have the necessary seals added. The stainless steel parts had to be initially milled or turned with precision machining on CNC machines and then fitted manually. The assembly was then placed into storage so that – in the event of a failure – a quick response was possible and the filling plant could be back up and running again.
“The can filler valve was redesigned so that it could be manufactured in one operation on an M2 cusing Multilaser 3D priner. This means there is no longer any need for the seals and interfaces that are otherwise an inevitable consequence of the joining process. The fact that no assembly work is required is not only cheaper, but also saves time for our customers. Manufacturing of the part by conventional means takes around 8 – 10 weeks including the procurement of the required precision cast part, whereas the Additive Manufacturing takes around one week. In principle, this means we can manufacture spare parts on demand and then deliver them on time when the demand suddenly arises. The benefits that arise with such a precision part are extremely interesting for both us as the manufacturer and for our customers if the desire is to keep overhaul times or machine downtimes as short as possible.” In addition, spare parts do not need to be purchased in advance and kept in storage, thus tying up less capital.
New part solutions and high reproducibility
Nevertheless, the development of the assembly was a minor feat of endurance. The load demands of a highly dynamic filling plant are suitably challenging, as the staff at Jung & Co. are very well aware. This is why the can filler valve was subjected to intensive load tests. In addition, there were also topology optimizations and modifications to the design as well as investigations into the amount of reworking and the release of tension from the parts. Thomas Lehmann: “Part development is an exciting process. The development reveals new option paths which can be explored in a targeted way. The finished 3D part not only looks different to the conventional one, but is also around 35% lighter. But it is also usually capable of doing more, and this is very easy to factor into the price because what matters is what effects actually result overall in terms of time and money.” The additive approach ultimately results in overhauled solutions which can boost performance. According to Jung & Co., the possibilities are very diverse: It is possible to incorporate lightweight design approaches or functional integrations, such as cooling, temperature control or sensor technology. Hybrid approaches to manufacturing are also relevant. For example, simple geometric areas can be machined in a conventional way while complex geometric areas of a part can be additively manufactured. Another important point is the high reproducibility. Once process parameters have been found, they guarantee a consistent level of quality including the documentation that is also supplied. Thomas Lehmann: “The many different aspects of 3D metal printing demand an in-depth analysis of the performance requirements in a discussion with the customer. Talking to the customer reveals possible solutions which, adapted to the process, result in new solutions which can deliver more than the previous parts. The crucial factor when it comes to costs is ultimately what the part is capable of and how quickly it is available.” In the beverage industry, there was another key argument in favor of Additive Manufacturing for the filling companies: In the case of conventional cast parts made from stainless steel, cavities are not exactly popular in the food industry as they are a potential source of contamination. Thomas Lehmann: “Cavities are to be avoided in this particular application, which is another important benefit of the 3D metal printing process.”
Prospects for 3D metal printing at Jung & Co.
Additive Manufacturing has been added to the CNC manufacturing range at Jung & Co. since 2015. Additive manufacturing currently takes place on an M2 cusing Multilaser machine with 2 x 400 W laser sources from Concept Laser. There are plans to expand the production capacity because there is such great demand. Thomas Lehmann: “The demand for 3D-printed metal components is expected to rise steadily and stable. I am thrilled that many of our customers are recognizing the benefits of additive parts. But I am just as delighted that we in house are able to familiarize our own employees and in particular the apprentices with the new technology. As a medium-sized enterprise, gaining more expertise is always a vital argument when talking to customers.” In addition, Jung & Co. is also planning to purchase a mobile laser scanner in the coming year. This will enable the company to adopt a completely new approach in supplying spare parts rapidly to its customers. Laser measurement allows the relevant component that needs to be replaced to be digitized in situ in the customer’s machine. Once the corresponding 3D files have been sent to Jung & Co. online, the production on the laser melting machine can also commence there immediately in urgent cases.Thomas Lehmann: “Additive Manufacturing opens up a whole host of opportunities when it comes to delivering spare parts for filling machines in the beverage industry. A laser scanner is the next logical step toward full digitization of the process chain. It does of course also have the appeal that we detach ourselves a little from the element of time and space in the supply of spare parts.”
Interview with Thomas Lehmann
Editor: Mr. Lehmann, how did you come up with the idea of producing spare parts on demand?
Thomas Lehmann: This has actually always been a dream at Jung & Co. With traditional machining, we have certain lead times for delivering a can filler valve, for example, to the customer. Manufacturing the component by conventional means takes around 12 - 15 weeks including the procurement of the required precision cast part. The question was how can we act faster. When we began to look at Additive Manufacturing, this changed the way we look at our products. Different geometries became possible, as did quick solutions and a decrease in the number of assemblies. Instead of the seven assemblies that were required previously, the spare part which has been described can now be manufactured in one operation, thus doing away with interfaces and seals in the assembly and reducing the weight by around 35%. It is now possible to manufacture the optimized additive part in one week. The idea of producing spare parts on demand thus emerged from the wealth of options that 3D metal printing offers.
Editor: How did the customers from the beverage industry react?
Thomas Lehmann: As in any industry, they were initially conservative and reserved. In a second step, the question immediately arose of whether this was also cheaper. This question is actually less important. What matters more in this sector is short machine downtimes and a rapid start-up of the machine following an overhaul. The monetary benefit of a 3D solution can be found here and in functional or qualitative aspects. So first of all we needed to explain the additive world. This was sometimes laborious. Laborious because in principle you have to suppress many of the things you are familiar with from traditional machining. This is because Additive Manufacturing follows different rules.
Editor: How did you get the first references?
Thomas Lehmann: In every business there are customers that maintain a close dialog in which each party is good at listening to the other. We were ultimately able to secure a few pilot customers for this project. These customers were surprised at how quickly we were actually able to supply a can filler assembly – and with the usual precision and density. If you calculate how much an hour it costs for a high-performance filling plant to be shut down, then a 3D solution is much cheaper than a conventional solution. It is easy to see how this pays off. In addition, the customer gets a solution that suits the process and is qualitatively and functionally persuasive.
Editor: How did you end up choosing Concept Laser as the plant and machine manufacturer?
Thomas Lehmann: Our motives were at very different levels. We embarked on the process of selecting a partner with a fully open mind. In trials with another German provider, it became clear that the laser tracks tended to overlap, which was not acceptable to us in this form. This problem did not arise with the M2 cusing Multilaser machine from Concept Laser. As we also work with titanium, Concept Laser’s safety concept with physical separation of the process chamber and handling chamber was a crucial factor for us, and also helps to make the machine more convenient to use. Yet it was not just the technology and the safety but the overall package that won us over. Our two companies are essentially “makers.” To this extent, Concept Laser was a very good fit for our corporate philosophy: perfect solutions, value-based, cooperation based on partnership, great reliability of statements and strong soft factors that enable a long-term working relationship.
Editor: What are your future plans for Additive Manufacturing at Jung & Co.?
Thomas Lehmann: We are thinking ahead in very different directions. It is now possible to have additive solutions but also hybrid solutions in which traditional machining processes are combined with laser melting. At the same time, we can now set about modifying the geometries to suit the process so that parts or assemblies can be manufactured more quickly or easily or embrace new performance criteria or functional integrations. When it comes to functional integrations, temperature control, cooling or even sensor technology can be incorporated. These are all very interesting topics. Specifically, we will shortly be employing a mobile laser scanner. This will enable us to measure the part that needs to be replaced in situ at the customer’s premises and then construct a fully digital process chain, from the scan to the 3D part ready for installation.
Editor: Thank you for the interview.