Clint originally purchased a Markforged X7 3D printer from Markforged partner D3 Technologies to create strong low-volume tooling for the factory floor. He was impressed with the minimal setup time needed for the X7 3D printer to start producing tools. Features such as adaptive bed leveling and pre-print calibration functions virtually eliminate the hours of setup an operator would traditionally perform between jobs, freeing them up for more critical functions like designing tooling and operating the CNC machines. Initially, the team’s goal was to make custom end effector gripping pads for their universal robots, but this quickly evolved into building custom grids for pre-machined parts in an effort to reduce changeover time. The team also often needs a unique subplate setup for their lathes and mills, which would require a machinist’s time to fabricate. Engineers saw this as an opportunity to leverage the Markforged platform to print custom mounting locator plates for their machines. Designers made sure the locator plates were adaptable, meaning they could be used for several different machines instead of just one. This saved the company a significant amount of time and capital, and was a way to keep their CNC machines fabricating revenue-generating components instead of machining internal-use parts.
The new time savings has been beneficial for production on many levels, including a 90% decrease in labor time required to make custom non-revenue-generating tools. “When you have an hourly rate for a machinist and then the burden of that machine, you just can’t touch these components for what we’re able to print them for,” says Clint. All of the extra time saved by the X7 3D printer has been reallocated to production operations, allowing Cashco to shrink overhead and redeploy toolmakers to create production components, which has been instrumental in keeping employees happy. The company has also placed a huge emphasis on reinvesting the money saved with the 3D printer back into their labor force. “It’s allowed us to leverage the talent that we have now, put more value into what they do on a daily basis,” says Clint. “It’s actually made it possible for us to pay them more as well.”