3-Dimensional Services Group

3-Dimensional Services Group (3)

3-Dimensional Services Group has announced an ambitious expansion to one of its affiliated companies, Urgent Design & Manufacturing (UDM), located at 3142 John Conley, Lapeer, MI 48446.

The company will add 65,000 sq.ft. to the current 100,000 sq.ft. Lapeer facility, which will allow for greater flexibility of its fabricating and machining footprint. The expansion and related equipment will result in an eventual investment approaching $10 million. It’s also expected to boost employment at the facility by 30 plus employees. The addition will not only increase the output capacity of the facility, but combined with the anticipated investment in new equipment, grow the range of services offered.

A unique feature of the facility will be an area labeled by the company as the “Design Studio”. This space will further enhance its capabilities as a full service, quick response advanced product development source, from design assist and validation, through manufacturing support.

According to Douglas Peterson, founder and CEO of The 3-Dimensional Services Group “This expansion is pivotal to boost our company’s capabilities to fabricate a broad spectrum of components and assemblies and to provide our customers with access to the best and latest technologies.”

Added Alan Peterson, President “Our customers’ product designs and engineering processes are changing at a rapid pace to keep up with market demands and global competition. This expansion and subsequent investment in manufacturing technologies is necessary to meet these needs both now and in the future for our growing customer base.”

Keith Chene, Chief Financial Officer weighed in that “Some might see this as a risky move in an uncertain economy, but we’ve been able to grow our company organically by paring risk with opportunity, and so far, it has proven to be a boon for our customers. The last two years have given us the confidence that this expansion is just one more strategic step toward future success.”

UDM began operations in 2000 as an extension and broadening of 3-Dimensional Services. It offers hydroforming and associated CNC tube bending, 3-axis and 5-axis fiber laser cutting, CNC machining, robotic and manual welding, hydroforming, water jet cutting, as well as a large stamping and forming department along with numerous CAD and engineering workstations.

3-Dimensional Services Group also announced the formation of a new strategic management team. The new team will have responsibility across all of the companies in the Group. The announcement was made by Douglas Peterson, Owner.

The new team consists of Chad Peterson, General Manager; Jeff Bischoff, Director of Engineering; Dave Krajci, Director of Operational Excellence, Dick Desotell, Director of Program Management and Mike Baranowski, Director of Quality. Each will have a direct line report to Shane Denton, Vice President through Chad Peterson.

The team’s responsibilities will be to review new programs and workload to allocate and adjust resources and drive changes to optimize efficiency and profitability.

According to Douglas Peterson, “Our company has experienced tremendous growth over the last few years and giving structure to our operations and putting this management team in place will ensure our continued growth and success.”

In recent years, as diode technology has improved, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have been getting increasing attention as a source of residential and commercial lighting. Small wonder, since compared to traditional incandescent lighting, these new lighting sources can provide the same amount of illumination using as little as 10 to 15% of the power.  This huge reduction in energy consumption means big savings for consumers and, perhaps more importantly, big reductions in the amount of fossil fuel used to generate that power.

None of this is news to one lighting manufacturer who has pioneered many residential and commercial LED lighting applications and has set itself the task of leading what it calls “the LED lighting revolution,” aimed at making traditional energy-intensive lighting technologies obsolete. One of its more significant initiatives in this area has been a line of LED architectural lighting products that incorporate breakthroughs in optical, electronic and mechanical design, as well as thermal management, allowing optimal distribution of light with minimal power consumption. The goal, ultimately, is to replace the miles and miles of overhead lighting in office buildings, schools, hospitals and retail structures with energy efficient LEDs.

It’s a bold move, but as the potential impact of products like this become increasingly clear, a growing number of companies are seeking to establish themselves as players in this arena. One company knew that in order to maintain its leadership position in this young market it had to get its new lighting product to market quickly. Essential to that aim was getting the required prototype parts, and that help came from 3-Dimensional Services of Rochester Hills, MI.

3-Dimensional Services is a firm that specializes in design, engineering and analysis, in-house tool construction, and complete build of prototype first off parts and low to medium volume production runs. It has built its success on the use of advanced process methods, its extensive array of in-house manufacturing technologies and the varied talents of its highly skilled staff. This confluence of factors enables 3-Dimensional Services to provide actual prototype parts -- not just models -- up to 70% faster than conventionally equipped prototype shops.

While the company created the lighting modules for the new product line, 3-Dimensional Services was tasked with creating the metal fixtures that would house them. “The fixtures began as low carbon steel blanks,” says Scott Duffie, senior sales engineer for 3-Dimensional Services. “First, the blanks were laser cut to near finish dimensions on one of our 5-axis lasers.”

3-Dimensional Services has no less than fifteen 5-axis lasers, so no job ever sits idle waiting for an open laser. These 5-axis lasers, the largest of which boasts a 5’ x 10’ cutting area, are generally used to process the more complex parts and contours. If 5-axis capabilities aren’t required, the company also has seven 3-axis lasers.

Three different sizes of the fixtures were needed, the largest of which measured 2' x 4', and this meant that three different forming tools were required. Fortunately, rapid tool design is a specialty of 3-Dimensional Services, thanks to its extensive design and engineering department that utilizes over 30 high-speed terminals with the leading software packages, allowing it to work from virtually any data files.
Three, three-piece forming tools consisting of punch, die and draw ring, were designed. Machining programs were generated from these designs and offloaded to 3-Dimensional Services’ CNC machines – the company has an array of CNC machining centers so jobs never have to wait for an available machine.  
Machining programs were developed from the resulting designs and the tools were cut from aluminum rather than from tool steel because the softer metal could be machined faster, but very accurately and to a high quality finish. This was important because as Duffie notes, “These parts, because of the environments they were intended for, needed to have a Class A finish, with no wrinkles, nicks or flaws.”

Next came forming on three of 3-Dimensional’s numerous presses, in this case 800 ton hydraulics, after which the parts, from 20 to 75 for each of the three sizes, were taken back to a 5-axis laser for final trimming. The parts were then transferred back to the hydraulic presses for secondary bending operations in which some of the trimmed edges were flanged or hemmed. This required three bending tools, one for each part size. These additional tools were created using the same technology, and with the same speed, as the three original forming tools.

“The parts underwent final checks, then powder coated, and shipped,” says Duffie. “All of this occurred within the three to four week time frame the customer had specified.

“Every job is important to us,” he continues. “That’s because we put our reputation on the line every time a new job, with its own new set of demands, comes into the shop. With this job, though, there was the extra satisfaction of knowing that our technology and know-was helping bring energy efficient products to market, products that can help all of us reduce our dependency on increasingly costly fossil fuels.”

The 3-Dimensional Services Group, consists of 3-Dimensional Services, Urgent Plastic Services, and Urgent Design & Manufacturing. Together they design, engineer and build functional prototype parts and low-to-medium volume production parts 50 to 70% faster than conventional prototype shops. To achieve this end they employ virtually all relevant manufacturing processes, including injection molding and casting, stamping, machining, robotic and manual welding, laser cutting and welding, waterjet, hydroforming, tube bending, vibration welding, casting and pattern fabrication, RIM tooling, rapid prototyping and assembly operations.

For more information, visit: www.3dimensional.com

Automotive companies today are constantly seeking to improve vehicle operating efficiency and thus improve fuel efficiency, especially in light of the ongoing upward climb in gas prices. Improving efficiency, however, is no longer easy; the low hanging fruit has already been picked. So, in their pursuit of this goal, automakers and major auto suppliers are increasingly turning to tech savvy partners to help them turn innovative ideas into reality. This was the situation recently when an axle manufacturer partnered with 3-Dimensional Services of Rochester Hills, MI, on an innovative new testing device.

3-Dimensional Services is a firm that specializes in the design, engineering and analysis, in-house tool construction, and complete build of prototype first-off parts and low to medium volume production runs. Its use of advanced process methods, manufacturing technologies and staff talents means that prototype parts are typically provided faster than conventionally equipped prototype shops are able to offer -- sometimes as much as 70% faster.

In this instance 3-Dimensional was asked to focus its various areas of expertise on a transfer case oil flow testing system for a new axle design for cars and light trucks. “When our customer creates a new axle design they’ve got to make sure that the actual oil flow within the transfer case is what they envisioned it to be,” says Scott Duffie, senior sales engineer for 3-Dimensional. “This is a key aspect of efficient operation for the axle and, ultimately, for the vehicle itself.”

To test that, they create a prototype of the new transfer case, cycle oil through it during test bed operation, and “see” what happens.

“See” being the operative word. “Typically this part would be a casting,” notes Duffie, and despite the marvels of today’s sensor technology, it is still tough to see what’s happening on the other side of a cast iron wall. To get a better understanding of how the new design actually performed, the axle manufacturer opted to go with a clear plastic transfer case prototype. They needed a partner who could bring the required rapid prototyping, molding, and precision machining skills together and do it quickly. They found that partner in 3-Dimensional.

First, 3-Dimensional quickly created a master pattern using stereolithography (SLA). Based on the part’s CAD design, the SLA's laser beam cures light sensitive polymers into the shape of the part. This, by the way, is one of four rapid prototyping technologies that can be deployed by 3-Dimensional, depending on the nature of the project, the others being laminate object manufacturing (LOM), selective laser sintering (SLS) and metal laminating.

Note that for many applications an SLA prototype is sufficient. 3-Dimensional’s intimate knowledge of the technology, however, led them to conclude that for this application a tougher, more resilient prototype than could be created with SLA was required.  Thus the SLA master pattern was used to create a silicone tool.

The intersection of craftsmanship and technology
Before that could happen, though, the master pattern had to be hand polished to a mirror finish. This was to ensure that the resulting tool, and thus the eventual prototype, would be left with no surface finish defects that could impede smooth oil flow or viewing.

The polishing entailed wet sanding alternating with a painting technique that 3-Dimensional employs in these cases. “The painting technique helps us identify surface areas that might be suspect and thus require more attention,” explains Duffie. He notes that while most of 3-Dimensional’s operations involve an array of high tech tools, this part is an instance of old-style craftsmanship. “It’s an art,” he adds.

“Once that tooling is complete then we’ll close it all off and pour urethane into it. After 24 hours of cure we pull the tool apart and we’re left with the prototype.”

Well, almost. First, 24 helicoils needed to be inserted. These provided the means to attach the transfer case to the rest of the prototype axle so that realistic cycling tests could be run. The part’s mating surfaces were machined flat on a mill, then pilot holes were drilled into the urethane, then a tap was run. Into these drilled and tapped holes the helicoils, or threads, were inserted on a CNC vertical milling center. These strong steel threads would enable the customer’s engineers to assemble and disassemble the part as many times as they saw fit.

There was no question of the part having to wait for a machine to become available. 3-Dimensional has over 40 CNC machining centers along with 75 knee mills and lathes, so neither machining capacity nor machining expertise were an issue.

“The entire operation took just three weeks,” says Duffie. In that length of time we provided a tough, clear transfer case prototype in which they could see and study every aspect of oil flow under a variety of conditions. Unexpectedly, they were also provided with an improvement on their original design.

“There were some strengthening ribs in their original design that our analysis concluded were not necessary and would, in fact, inhibit the viewing of smooth oil flow,” recalls Duffie. “They let us eliminate them and, after their subsequent testing, were pleased with the result.”

The 3-Dimensional Services Group, consisting of 3-Dimensional Services, Urgent Plastic Services, and Urgent Design & Manufacturing, provides rapid prototyping services that allow them to design, engineer and build functional prototype parts and low-to-medium volume production parts from 50 to 70% faster than conventional prototype shops. Their capabilities encompass virtually all relevant processes, including injection molding and casting, stamping, CNC machining, robotic and manual welding, laser cutting and welding, waterjet, hydroforming, tube bending, vibration welding, casting and pattern fabrication, RIM tooling, SLA, LOM and SLS rapid prototyping, and assembly.

For more information, visit: www.3dimensional.com

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