Ag Parts: A Multi-Dimensional Look

Teresa Olson
By Teresa Olson May 30, 2017 13:30

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…and again, and again.  Farmers out of necessity, carry out a wide variety of tasks in order to keep their operation running.  Well, there’s a new skill that may be added to that already long list, and it involves 3-D printing.  As price comes down and processes/products improve, 3-D printers might become a normal tool on the farm.  Having an instrument of this sort could enable farmers to increase their self-sufficiency, and technology might reach a point where manufacturers offer design files online for farmers to buy and then print themselves.  Local dealers could also make temporary parts while waiting for the permanent ones to come in.

This is just one dimension of 3-D printing, so let’s back up one step.  3-D printing has and will continue to be beneficial in product development for manufacturers.  Nathan Hulstein, president of GVL Poly in Litchfield, MN, thinks that in the next decade ag engineers will use 3-D printing to shorten design cycles.  This process will allow manufacturers to change preliminary models, or prototypes, many times within a testing cycle.  They could eliminate several expensive mold design changes and 3-D print a single mold to be built without the those changes.  Rye DeGarmo, AGCO engineering manager, says this printing saves in tooling.  A tooled cast part with a potential cost of between $8,000 – $12,000 and a 10-week wait could instead be printed, changed, and reprinted many times before committing to tooling costs.

Here’s another dimension to this innovation.  Ben Bernard, computer service specialist from the North Dakota State University, says the agricultural industry should be excited about 3-D printing and a material called PLA.  Polylactic acid (PLA), is made from corn starch which could open up another market for corn growers.  Older printing applications could cost between 5 to 10 dollars per cubic inch, but PLA is only 25 to 50 cents per cubic inch.  He’s trying to persuade the ND Corn Growers Association to fund PLA research because of the demand, hoping that stronger filaments can be developed and new ag markets will be found.

And one more dimension just for good measure.  Charlie O’Brien, senior vice president of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers says agriculture is changing and opening up a lot of new career opportunities- particularly technology-based.  He already seen things like a 3-D printed drone that can monitor crops, a mini-farm grow box system, and a 3-D printed insect trap emerge in farming communities.

Some of this innovation may be considered a pipe dream, and other parts of it are on the horizon.  It will be interesting to see where this technology takes us – now and in the future.

-Terry Olson, Titan Outlet Store Team

References:

https://www.agweb.com/article/the-future-of-3d-printing-on-the-farm-chris-bennett/

https://3dprint.com/115833/3d-printing-agriculture-jobs/

 

Teresa Olson
By Teresa Olson May 30, 2017 13:30
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