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Heineken reveals 3D printing progress at Spanish brewery

Engineers at the Heineken brewery in Seville, Spain, now design and print safety devices, tools and other manufacturing parts on-demand using 3D printing technology, rather than outsourcing the job to external vendors.

The drinks company said the process is helping to increase production up-time and saving around 80% in production costs on the parts that are 3D printed.

Having started off using the technology for safety applications around a year ago, such as printing locking mechanisms for machines so they cannot start to operate during maintenance, Heineken has expanded its used of the equipment to multiple facets of the manufacturing process.

It now 3D prints functional parts for its machines, which means it no longer has to store inventory or wait for delivery of these parts when they wear out. In addition, the team has used 3D printing technology to redesign parts of its manufacturing process that were not providing optimum results, as well as to create completely new tools that make it easier to perform maintenance or check the quality of products or machines.

The technology is provided by desktop 3D printing company Ultimaker, with the beer company originally using its 2+ machines but upgrading to multiple Ultimaker S5 printers, which are deemed more “enterprise-ready”.

Isabelle Haenen, global supply chain procurement at Heineken, said: “We’re still in the first stages of 3D printing, but we’ve already seen a reduction of costs in the applications that we found by 70-90% and also a decrease of delivery time of these applications of 70-90%.

“Local manufacturing helps us a lot in increasing up-time, efficiency and output. We use 3D printing to optimise the manufacturing line, create maintenance and quality control tools, and create tools for our machines which help us increase safety for our people.”

Jos Burger, CEO of Ultimaker, remarked: “Every company has its own unique challenges in the production process, which is why the ability to create custom solutions straight from the factory floor is such a game-changer for the manufacturing industry.”

Haenen predicted there will be even more opportunities for Heineken to use 3D printing in the future, and Burger said “We cannot wait to see what they come up with next.”

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