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Schneider Electric’s ‘factory of the future’ strategy

07 November 2016

Stratasys and Schneider Electric are working together to include 3D printing into its manufacturing processes for both short and longer term efficiency goals.

3D printed injection mould with resulting part, produced on a Stratasys Objet Connex 3D Printer

Specialising in electricity distribution, automation management and the production of installation components for energy management, Schneider Electric is using a combination of Stratasys PolyJet and FDM based 3D printing solutions for product development, prototypes and industrialisation. This comprises multiple applications, including injection moulding and assembly-line tooling, the design and production of which is managed via the company’s internal model shop, Openlab.

The immediate savings sum up to 90 percent in both time and money since deploying Stratasys 3D printing solutions across its production operations in Grenoble, France. 

This year, Schneider will launch around 400 new solutions, which is more than one a day, according to Sylvain Gire, Vice-President GSC Transformation-Industrialisation at Schneider Electric. 

The combination of financial savings and a greatly enhanced workflow has contributed to the plant’s overall manufacturing efficiencies and reduced the time-to-market in key areas.

3D printed injection moulds for prototyping designs 

According to Sylvain Gire, the company has slashed the cost of producing injection mould inserts used for prototyping designs to just £90 with Stratasys 3D printing, compared to £900 when manufacturing the same item in aluminium.

As well as the astronomical cost-saving enjoyed from 3D printing injection moulds, Schneider has also drastically cut the time taken to produce them. Manufacturing the prototype moulds in aluminium necessitates – in some cases – a lead time of as much as two months, but with Stratasys’ 3D printing solutions, the whole process is completed within a week. 

Efficient design and engineering of assembly-line tooling

A 3D printed jig, produced using a Stratasys Objet Connex 3D Printer

These benefits also extend to Schneider Electric’s mechanical design and engineering department, which is tasked with the production of assembly, control and adjustment tools for its diverse product range. This has seen the company utilise Stratasys 3D printing to produce prototype jigs and fixtures to validate the ergonomics and functionality of the final assembly tools

Department manager, Yann Sittarame explains the company is increasingly using 3D printing to design and engineer assembly-line tools for validation – thereby saving time in the production of the final tools

Using Stratasys’ Connex multi-material 3D printing technology, Yann and his team can produce new manufacturing tool prototypes in just one week. In the past, it would have taken at least three weeks to produce the same tools using conventional CNC machining, which amounts to a substantial time-saving of approximately 70 percent.

This technology has changed the way Schneider works and changes the way it thinks about doing things in the future. Looking ahead, it plans to 3D print the final tools, which is perfectly achievable given the accuracy and durability of the 3D printing process.

Factory of the future

According to Sylvain Gire, Schneider Electric is firmly committed to its goal of creating the Factory of the Future and sees Stratasys as a key partner and enabler to realise this.

Schneider started utilising Stratasys 3D printing a few years ago for prototyping new solutions. It will continue to leverage Stratasys 3D printing solutions for the ongoing development of tooling process, predominantly for the production of small quantities of new products. It will also shortly be looking to use Stratasys’ 3D printing solutions for final production, such as for spare parts or for low-volume requirements.

Andy Middleton, President, Stratasys, EMEA notes that Schneider Electric’s innovative use of 3D printing in the current manufacturing processes and as a key strategy in the Factory of the Future program epitomises its leadership in global connected energy management. By partnering with blue chip companies like Schneider Electric, Stratasys is able to demonstrate the strategic value of additive manufacturing and help companies optimise their supply chain efficiencies while bringing better products to market, faster.


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