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Three-dimensional printers are appearing in many different industries, from auto parts to medical devices. But could there soon be 3D printed forklift parts you could use to repair and maintain lift trucks in your fleet? Possibly.
Metso, a company in Finland, has developed technology that allows businesses to print metal valves for engines in industrial machinery. That’s a new twist in the ongoing saga of 3D printing.
While 3D printers have been around for a while, most have used plastic and other synthetic materials to create lightweight parts and other pieces. Metso’s new technology may be one of the first that creates durable metal parts that can stand up to the wear and tear of heavy industrial use.
Forklift Accessories — 3D Applications
Obviously, the biggest benefit of 3D printed parts is immediacy. When you can print the parts you need right on-site, there’s no need to wait around for parts to be ordered and shipped. Instead, they can be printed and used nearly instantaneously.
There’s also customizability. Using advanced design programs, it’s theoretically possible to design your own parts to custom specifications.
The downside, however, is that very few businesses currently have 3D printers. While the technology is expected to play a huge role in the future of manufacturing, it is still being perfected. So currently only very specific industries use 3D printed materials.
Yet once 3D printers become commonplace they could revolutionize the way businesses get parts, supplies, and materials. Rather than waiting for packages to be shipped from a remote location, all businesses with a 3D printer will need will be the digital code used by the printer to create the specific part. And once a business has the code, it can print a replacement part anytime it needs one.
Forklift Accessories — One Piece at a Time
For forklifts, 3D printers like the one being developed by Metso could be used to create metal replacement parts for motors, transmissions, and even masts and forks.
Imagine having a forklift break down due to a faulty part and being able to instantly print a replacement part. The vehicle could be back in service in just minutes, compared to the hours or even days it currently takes to get a replacement part. The applications could revolutionize the way businesses manage and maintain their forklift fleets.
There could even come a time when an entire forklift could be printed out one piece at a time and then assembled by robots on site. While this may sound like something out of science fiction, the technology currently exists and it’s likely only a matter of time before something like it becomes the norm.