Caterpillar Announces Partnership for Heavy Equipment 3D Printing
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on March 15, 2017 |
Caterpillar and FIT AG have partnered to 3D print aluminum and titanium parts.

As additive manufacturing (AM) makes its way into mainstream manufacturing more and more, a growing number of large original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have looked for new ways to adopt the technology. Among the most recent is construction equipment maker Caterpillar, which has signed a deal with AM solutions provider FIT AG to 3D print aluminum and titanium parts.

Together, the two companies will explore how AM might be leveraged in the heavy manufacturing space, as FIT AG combines its knowledge of 3D printing and engineering with Caterpillar’s expertise in heavy construction equipment.

Caterpillar’s Additive Manufacturing Factory. (Image courtesy of Caterpillar.)
Caterpillar’s Additive Manufacturing Factory. (Image courtesy of Caterpillar.)

With 250 employees in Germany and Boston, FIT AG is already an established firm in the 3D printing industry, having spun off Netfabb into its own 3D printing software company that was eventually sold to Autodesk. The addition of Caterpillar to its roster of partners further positions FIT AG in the industrial manufacturing space. The news also builds on the launch of Caterpillar’s Additive Manufacturing Factory last year. The alliance will begin as a three-year contract with the possibility of growing based on the collaboration’s success.

In one project, Caterpillar 3D printed 36 different track links before moving to end-production, saving $160,000 in time and labor. (Image courtesy of Caterpillar.)
In one project, Caterpillar 3D printed 36 different track links before moving to end-production, saving $160,000 in time and labor. (Image courtesy of Caterpillar.) 

Stacey DelVecchio, Caterpillar Additive Manufacturing project manager, said of the partnership, “Caterpillar has a long history of creating innovative products designed to fit the needs of our customers, and entering into a strategic alliance with a leader in additive manufacturing will help further that tradition. Not only will Caterpillar now have access to FIT AG’s cutting-edge technologies in additive manufacturing but this alliance will also help accelerate our adoption of 3D printing.”

The news comes shortly after the unveiling of the world’s first 3D-printed excavator from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2017 this March. Along with its partners, ORNL 3D-printed a hydraulically powered excavator to demonstrate the advances that have occurred in fluid power. The excavator’s 7-foot-long, 400-pound boom was 3D-printed from low-cost steel with built-in channels for fluid power components, while the cab was printed from carbon fiber-reinforced ABS plastic and the 13-pound heat exchanger was printed from aluminum.

 

Demonstrating just what 3D printing can contribute to the world of heavy equipment manufacturing, it’s no surprise that, just days later, Caterpillar and FIT AG would announce their own partnership. Will a 3D-printed excavator be in the works?

To learn more about FIT AG and Caterpillar, visit their websites.


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