Case StudiesIndustrial Additive Manufacturing

SD1 saves $40,000 annually by 3D printing equipment components

The small plastic passive guide had previously cost about $650 per piece, but can now be 3D printed in-house for about 30 cents

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Sanitation District No. 1 (SD1), the organization responsible for the collection and treatment of Northern Kentucky’s wastewater, and also the regional stormwater management agency, has begun 3D printing its own equipment components (passive guides) to significantly reduce the cost of maintaining its assets.

SD1 Asset Maintenance Technician, Collin Couch, a mechanical engineering student at Northern Kentucky University, is an integral part of the project – which is reportedly expected to save ratepayers thousands of dollars this year, with more anticipated as the 3D printing program develops.

One of the first applications of the new initiative at SD1 is in sewer inspection camera components. Sewer inspection cameras play a critical role in maintaining Northern Kentucky’s wastewater and stormwater systems. The specialized cameras work with crawler robots to collect visual data of what is going on inside sewers – allowing SD1 to identify problems and prioritize improvement projects across the region.

SD1 saves $40,000 annually by 3D printing equipment components (passive guides) that previously cost $650, but now cost about 30 cents.
Passive guide CAD schematic. Source: SD1.

SD1 spends thousands of dollars, annually, maintaining these sewer inspection cameras. Increasing costs associated with repairing this equipment has been an ongoing challenge for the organization.

To reduce the cost of camera repairs, SD1 implemented an in-house maintenance and repair program several years ago that continually looks for savings within the asset maintenance department. Last fall, staff began exploring whether replacement camera parts could be 3D printed instead of ordering costly parts from vendors.

Drawing on his experience in 3D printing, Collin Couch first drew the component in CAD and produced a 3D printed passive guide prototype at home. He and other SD1 asset maintenance staff field-tested the prototype – experimenting with different materials, and gaining valuable feedback from SD1 camera crews.

After a few months, the team produced a 3D printed passive guide that works as effectively as the original part that was sourced from vendors – at just a fraction of the cost. The small plastic guide had previously cost SD1 about $650 per piece, but can now be 3D printed, in-house, for about 30 cents. The move to the in-house printing of these components will save SD1 nearly $40,000 annually.

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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