Engineers Use 3D Tech to Make Latest Products
At KING, personnel use the latest innovations in technology, including top-of-the-line software and hardware. Though they focus more on the hands-on side of engineering, this department finds that using the Stratasys 3D printer is advantageous in the overall workflow of some of the more time-consuming projects.
At the same time, as the mechanical engineers accelerate their prototyping with the 3D Printer, electrical engineer Michael Bendzick streamlines the test and qualification of electrical systems with newly acquired test equipment. Most helpful has been a “mixed-domain” oscilloscope used to check current draw, measure RF levels, and even control the temperature in a 1980-vintage thermal test chamber. Michael adds, “I’ve tied all of this equipment together with new software I’ve been learning to write in Python to further simplify testing and provide consistent results.”
He said, “Using the printer isn’t the challenge, but learning the 3D CAD tool is complicated.”
He started working at KING at the beginning of July, so he hasn’t had as much time to tinker with the machine, as have other members of the staff.
As an electrical engineer, he mostly works with tried-and-true methods like using a soldering iron to work on a satellite’s motherboard. From there, he lays out the board, figures out how the wires are connected, how they communicate with the computer to digest the data they receive from the satellite, and does a lot of troubleshooting along the way.
“I get to work on everything I have the desire to work on,” Michael said. “There’s ideas flowing and stuff to do so it’s just getting in there and getting it done. It’s good there’s a lot to do.”
Ward Thompson also works in the engineering department at KING, as the data analyst and systems technician. He finds the 3D printer useful in its ability to create objects on a small scale.
“It could take 20 hours to make a small part, it’s quite fun, I’ve actually built a few different tools for repair and production with it,” he said.
Ward has been working at KING for about 11 years. When he started, they were building the Auto-Scan which was a semi-automatic satellite antenna. If you have never used the Auto-Scan before, you might be interested to learn that it’s now a legacy product that was one operated by a remote control that was connected via telephone cable. You would use the remote control to tell it where to point toward the sky.
Now, there’s the KING Tailgater and Quest that automatically find the satellite signal.
Comparatively, going from a telephone cable to a 3D printer in a little over a decade keeps life pretty fast-paced for the engineering department. The learning curve isn’t too steep for the engineers, though. While some people may cringe at the thought of crunching data, Ward says that’s his favorite part of the job.
“It suits me well and I’m very good at it. I can see that what I do in that area has a tremendous effect on the effectivity of the company–how well they do their jobs,” he said. “I like it because I can see that it’s making things better.”
Whether they are working with product prototypes or deciding which part to put where, Michael Bendzick and Ward Thompson are excited to work with the 3D printer, the fact that the device streamlines product design workflow is huge. The engineering team can literally manifest their concepts right before their eyes, then test these tactile objects for potential use in future products. This speeds up production and simultaneously lowers KING’s costs, and will predictably be used more often in the future.