“We are very excited to be able to take this 3D model unit to the IEEE T&D PES Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans, April 2022. Mobile Substations are a very complex piece of equipment that can rarely be shown in person at conferences. It is definitely an impressive display piece to have at the booth and we are sure it will be a starting point of many conversations with attendees.”
Marketing Services Operations Manager atSouthern States LLC, Maria Fischer
For over 100 years, Southern States has been a provider of essential products and services to electric utilities in the U.S. and Canada to support the nation’s electric power infrastructure. This includes high voltage switching products which transfer bulk power, switch loads to balance the system, and protect assets from damaging over-currents.
Southern States LLC manufacturers highly technical and complex equipment for the electrical utility market. Their custom mobile trailer designs utilize various substation equipment including transformers, capacitor banks, circuit breakers, circuit switchers, disconnect switches, and more. Gaining a thorough understanding of each trailer’s design, including their layout and capabilities, is not an easy undertaking.
In addition, the 3D CAD models provided were extremely complex and far from usable as 3D printable files. Getting from the original design files to a workable 3D printable model would require an experienced designer.
- Southern States – Needed a better way to communicate the complexity of their mobile trailers to potential customers, utility companies, as well as internal staff
- Utility Companies – Needed a verified solution to ensure electrical up-time to their customer
- Internal Staff – Needed a better method for communicating and discussing their own product
SOUTHERN STATES’ STARTING POINT TO FIND A SOLUTION
Southern States understood they needed a better way of allowing their customers to visualize their engineering capabilities at tradeshows, conferences, and other corporate gatherings. Although one of their employees was able to create a simplified version as a side project, it lacked many of the intricate details which were key selling points of the trailer.
Although it proved to be an inexpensive solution at the time, the model was printed in PLA, and exposed to heat from the sun during transport and in storage which caused it to soften and lose its form. Unfortunately, it was no longer usable.
CAD models of their trailer were available in STEP format, but Southern States did not have the expertise in house to convert those into usable files for 3D printing.
At this stage, Southern States engaged with 3D Printing Tech to find out if there were advanced materials that would last in indoor and outdoor environments and to find the modeling know-how needed to convert their files.
3D PRINTING TECH’S PROCESS CLEARS THE TRAILER’S ROADBLOCKS
3D Printing Tech followed its four-stage project process to achieve the best outcome for Southern States.
Stage 1: Concept, Scope of Work, & Approval
During this phase 3D Printing Tech gathered the necessary information from Southern States, including the available STEP files, diagrams, and drawings of the overall scope of work, the marketing team’s goals as well as upper management’s goals for the project, the intended use and audience for the model, and the budget and timeline.
After looking at the information provided, 3D Printing Tech verified that the project was feasible, laid out a formal scope of work, and provided an estimate for the cost and timeline which was approved by Southern States. They also shared the printing material and method that would be used, ensuring that it would solve the temperature issue Southern States had experienced with PLA. The material of choice was white Nylon12 to be SLS printed (laser sintered) with XYZ Professional’s MfgPro230 xS.
Stage 2: 3D Design, Validation, & Print Settings Testing
Once approved, 3D Printing Tech tackled the large file repair and preparation process. They engaged with Southern States to assign a specific color for each feature, to determine which features were of greater or lesser importance, and to solve any potential issues with the model. For instance, the wiring running over the model could not be 3D printed, so Southern States provided the dimensions for the actual wiring, and 3D Printing Tech determined what gauge of wire would fit the scale, designing the model around that solution.
During this process:
- The files available as a starting point were CAD files in STEP format that were used for the actual manufacturing of the truck
- A minimum feature dimension for the 3D print was determined that would still allow those minimum features on the truck to be discernable
- A scaling factor resulted which would be used to search for features on the truck that were below the minimum dimension
- Every inch of the truck was inspected in CAD, and items that fell below the minimum dimension were remodeled to add thickness/mass but still convey the details properly
- Open cavities were solidified but then re-hollowed appropriately for 3D printing so that the overall weight of the model, and therefore the cost to produce it, were kept within reason
- Small parts that would be easily breakable were modeled and printed separately, so that they could be replaced in the future if they were broken off the model
- The overall model was separated into pieces for printing, and slots and mating holes were added to allow for perfect assembly
Stage 3: Production
After the 3D model was ready for printing, 3D Printing Tech went into pre-production and printed a small portion of the truck to be used as a proof for approval. Southern States was very happy with the turnout, and quickly approved full production.
During the production of the Southern States trailer, 3D Printing Tech ran multiple SLS builds with nested parts to optimize the output and decrease the turnaround time of the overall model.
Stage 4: 3D Print Finishing & Fulfillment
Once printed, 3D Printing Tech was ready to begin the painting and assembly process. The SLS printed parts were primed with a spray primer first, and then painted the specific grey tone that Southern States had indicated for each part. In addition to painting, decals were added for specific elements like the red and white reflectors along the base trailer.
After careful assembly, the model was ready for show.
3D Printing Tech’s knowledge and expertise in modeling, 3D printing materials, and marketing models enabled the creation of a show model for Southern States that met the needs of all the stakeholders involved.
- Southern States had a high-end marketing model, good for both indoor and outdoor tradeshows, that served as a valuable sales tool.
- Utility Companies could fully understand the scope and breadth of Southern States offerings and could envision how customizable trucks would be configured to meet their needs.
- Executive and Sales Staff at Southern States have a tool to discuss and review their own product internally during meetings and onsite visits to aid in education about and development of their product
3D PRINTING TECH COMPANY OVERVIEW
3D Printing Tech specializes in production quantity and large-volume 3D printing with laser sintering (SLS) and filament extrusion (FDM/FFF) methods. Its customers include fast-growing, mid-sized, large, and Fortune 500 companies. In addition to 3D printing, 3D Printing Tech utilizes 3D modeling/scanning, laser cutting, and vacuum forming to support its production and client projects. The team’s understanding of the importance of effective communication, and its commitment to helping people understand how to use 3D printing to grow their businesses and create efficiencies in manufacturing and production, are foundational to the long-term relationships it forms.