It is well-established that additive manufacturing (AM) offers significant value for the aerospace industry. Recognizing this, Eaton’s Aerospace Group has developed an efficient and effective deployment model that enables the rapid distribution of additive manufacturing technology across a large, decentralized organization. The model has five fundamental aspects, including practical experience, on-site guidance, software tools, formal training, and effective communication.
Eaton recognized early on that additive manufacturing required a shift in thinking and would mean letting go of the old paradigms associated with conventional manufacturing methods that constrained designs. One of the ways we inspired this shift in thinking was by ensuring that every engineer had direct access to the technology and the freedom to experiment in an unconstrained environment.
To facilitate this, in addition to our Eaton Centers of Excellence in Southfield, Michigan, and Pune, India, Eaton’s Aerospace business purchased 55 printers and intentionally located them with every manufacturing and design engineering team in the organization. This enabled engineers to directly experience the power of AM for everything from manufacturing fixtures to developing models of new design concepts. The ability to think in terms of layered manufacturing and experiment with new concepts rapidly and cost-effectively—allowing engineers to hold parts a few hours after they were designed—has greatly impacted the energy and excitement in the organization.
In addition to printers, Eaton’s Aerospace business has identified pilot projects for both the operations team to implement on the factory floor and the product team to create innovative designs. These projects enable cross-functional teams consisting of engineering, quality, supply chain management, program management, and commercial members to collaborate and take ownership of projects, shepherding them through the different stages of development and into series production.