John Deere Turns To 3D Printing More Efficient Engine Parts
The new thermal diverter valve on the latest versions of John Deere 6R and 6M tractors isn’t just an innovative application of increasingly accessible metal 3D printing technology, it’s the culmination of about two years of R&D. It started with a challenge to ensure John Deere tractors would perform in cold environments. Engineers were tasked with developing a valve that could maintain fuel temperatures without affecting engine performance.
Currently, more than 4,000 valves are being shipped from GKN to the John Deere tractor factory for final assembly at a price per part that is less than forging or milling. Tractors with this 3D-printed part are already in the field, literally. Müller says another benefit of 3D printing this particular part instead of using traditional methods, is added agility in the manufacturing process. Because 3D printing does not require molds or tools, part prototypes were faster and cheaper to create, which accelerated the design process. The design can be tweaked and improved at any time. Plus, when it comes to replacement parts, no standing inventory is necessary. The digital file of this value can be sent to any third-party manufacturer with HP Metal Jet technology and produced relatively locally and quickly.