Ledcor Ball Valve Project
Ledcor teams up with Tempus 3D printing to alleviate supply chain issues, improve part design and minimize manufacturing time.
Ledcor is an integrated construction company with operations across North America. As part of their regular operations they treat roads with calcium chloride for dust control and various other purposes. This process involves the use of ball valves to control the flow of the solution.
A number of their valves were damaged beyond repair and needed to be replaced. After making exhaustive attempts to source new valves through their traditional suppliers they were faced with a six month or greater lead-time for delivery. This put their operations in an untenable situation of potentially being shut down for a significant period of time due to a relatively inexpensive part.
Ledcor approached Tempus 3D for a local manufacturing solution. Their requirements included upgrades to the performance of the part and a tight timeline for delivery.
Rapid manufacturing of end-use parts
Improve part functionality in relation to the original injection-molded part
Bypass supply chain restrictions with local manufacturing
Minimize down time with local manufacturing
Ledcor had two main deliverables for this project; to improve the design of the original ball valve to address historical weak points, and to deliver the final product as soon as possible.
Ledcor wanted to have the part re-designed because of flaws that were causing damage to, and critical failure of, the original part. The main weak point in the original valve was the seam where the two injection molded parts were joined together. This seam was prone to holding water and then freezing during the cold Canadian winters, which resulted in the parts cracking and no longer holding a seal.
The second major concern was to have the final part manufactured as quickly as possible, in order to minimize downtime of the affected vehicles. 3D printing was the manufacturing method of choice because of it's speed of manufactuing and low cost compared to injection molding or machining from metal. an added advantage is the ability to produce low-cost replacement parts within days of ordering.
The first step in re-designing the valve was to use the original valve as a template to upgrade the design to the Ledcor’s specifications. Tempus 3D collaborated with the Selkirk Innovates team at the Selkirk Technology Access Centre to reverse-engineer the internal mechanical parts and to design the exterior casing.
A Creaform HandySCAN 3D scanner was used to image the original parts to ensure a proper fit was obtained. Parts were rendered in a 3D digital file using Fusion 360 design software, which was used to re-design the part to Ledcor's specifications.
An initial prototype proof-of-concept was then 3D printed to ensure the design was complete and confirm fit and function. After the initial prototype was tested some minor enhancements were made to reduce complexity and strengthen the part.
The final design was 3D printed by Tempus 3D using the HP Multi Jet Fusion 5200 3D printer for it’s dimensional accuracy and quality. Nylon PA12 was selected as the material for its overall durability and resistance to water, chemicals and UV rays.
The final part was sent to Cody Laursen and his team at Streamline for vapor smoothing using AMT Post Pro vapour smoothing technology. This process improves the overall material qualities of the part, including water- and chemical-resistance.
The critical surfaces of the valve casings were machined to ensure an exact fit of the functional pieces, then the ball valve was assembled. The valves were tested both at room temperature as well as at freezing to ensure proper functionality. Once testing was complete the parts were shipped to Ledcor to be put through their paces in the real world.
This whole process was completed in less than four weeks, and future parts can be delivered in less than two weeks. The overall cost to Ledcor was very affordable in relation to the cost of downtime, and was even comparable to purchasing from their original supplier.
Ledcor and Tempus continue to look for ways to integrate 3D printing into their operations to reduce their supply chain risk and improve part functionality and quality.
With Tempus’ location in central British Columbia it is uniquely capable of serving markets across Canada with cost-effective overnight shipping and the ability to turn around rush orders in as little as 36 hours. We at Tempus feel this is just the beginning of what manufacturing will look like in the future; it will be more responsive, more custom and more local, allowing innovators across sectors to bring products to market quicker and in a more environmentally friendly way.
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