3M Buckley Innovation Centre (3M BIC) has applied 3D printing technology to provide a replacement part for a Leesona winder, which is used by Wyedean, a military uniform manufacturer and supplier to the Armed Forces.
The Yorkshire-based company has been serving the military for over a century, and turned to 3M BIC when a component of its legacy Leesona winder broke. This machine was made out of cast iron and manufactured 70 years ago, meaning spare parts weren’t so easy to come by. 3M BIC’s design team was sent the broken part which was missing three of its ‘fingers’, which held the cardboard inner roll of a thread spool in place when the machinery was in operation. Without it, production would be halted.
Using a combination of optical, photogrammetry and x-ray computerised tomography (XCT) to maximise precision, the design team worked to capture the data of the broken component. Mirroring the unbroken side, the data was converted into a printable STL file, and then additively manufactured in a nylon polymer on a selective laser sintering platform. This polymer winder part is currently on trial. Should it not match the performance of the original part, 3M BIC is set to print another replacement in stainless steel and implement some improvements. The company has also been commissioned to replace two more winder parts that have recently broken.
“Other than those broken parts, the winder machine is in good shape so by replacing them it will probably be good for another 70 years,” commented Robin Wright, Managing Director, Wyedean. “Leesona winders are quite versatile, being able to wind many different yarn compositions. Modern day winders, albeit much faster, are not so versatile so we prefer to continue using the Leesona winders. Technology is advancing at a rapid rate and established companies need to exploit them to stay in the game.”
“This is a great example of how modern technology can be used to secure the future of legacy equipment to replace parts that can’t be replicated easily today,” added Michael Wilson, Centre Manager at 3M BIC. “Additive manufacturing allows us to customise products, trial them and amend them if necessary, so we can produce a final product or prototype that is the perfect fit for purpose.
“There are many manufacturing businesses that have been around for hundreds of years, but in order for them to survive they need to innovate.”