Meira Oy is a Finnish company specializing in coffee and spice industry. The company’s roots date back to year 1914, when Meira’s business started on Erottaja, a public square near the centre of Helsinki. A year later they opened their spice mill. In 1930, their spice production and coffee roastery relocated to Aleksis Kivi street, where they have been operating to this day.

People from Meira’s mill in Vallila contacted us with an urgent need the other morning, as their reserves of a particular spare part for their coffee packaging conveyor were running urgently low. This spare part, referred to as ‘käpälä’ in Finnish jargon, functions as a failsafe to protect the conveyor machinery from greater damage when there’s a collision. ‘Käpälä’ needs to be replaced when the machinery malfunctions or the form of a package is flawed. Since the remaining reserves might not even last through the following weekend, the need was urgent indeed. The manufacturer had notified that it would take at least two months to deliver replacement parts.

Revision instructions for and digital model of the ‘Käpälä’.

After Meira first contacted us, we worked swiftly and arranged a meeting the same morning. They provided us with one of the last needed aluminum spare parts available, we rendered its geometry into a digital 3D model, and Meira got the original spare part back before the business day was finished. We could have 3D scanned the part, however, modeling makes adjusting specific measurements easier.

The following day, the client had a chance to review the model based on a prototype manufactured overnight with FDM technique, and choose a preferred material among the samples. After few adjustments, we manufactured a series of the parts via laser sintering to suit the need for the following critical two weeks’ period. The client ultimately chose to use food industry certified Duraform ProX PA12 material. The replacement parts were delivered four days after the client first contacted us. Based on experience from live testing, the part has since been slightly adjusted. The client reports fast delivery and cost efficiency as the main benefits compared to the original replacement part.

After Meira first contacted us, we worked swiftly and arranged a meeting the same morning. They provided us with one of the last needed aluminum spare parts available, we rendered its geometry into a digital 3D model, and Meira got the original spare part back before the business day was finished. We could have 3D scanned the part, however, modeling makes adjusting specific measurements easier.

The following day, the client had a chance to review the model based on a prototype manufactured overnight with FDM technique, and choose a preferred material among the samples. After few adjustments, we manufactured a series of the parts via laser sintering to suit the need for the following critical two weeks’ period. The client ultimately chose to use food industry certified Duraform ProX PA12 material. The replacement parts were delivered four days after the client first contacted us. Based on experience from live testing, the part has since been slightly adjusted. The client reports fast delivery and cost efficiency as the main benefits compared to the original replacement part.

Replacement parts manufactured from Duraform ProX material.

Replacement parts of the 2020s

3D printed digital replacement parts are among the fastest growing trends in 3D printing scene. Increasing demand relates to the possibility of moving into local smart production to manufacture products. Parts are manufactured by 3D printing as needed, usually in close proximity to where they are used. This allows an immediate cut of costs in logistics. “This creates alluring benefits compared to the traditional model, where replacement parts can be difficult to procure from the outskirts of a supply chain,” comments Dr. Mika Salmi from Aalto University, who is affiliated with a research project concerning digital spare parts.

The number of businesses expanding toward digitizing replacement parts is increasing as we go. The option often emerges from need; when a part has nearly run its course and an urgent need for a replacement arises, one may find themselves in a situation where a spare part is nowhere to be found or it’s not manufactured anymore. Sometimes the obstacle lies in supplier’s volume limitations, where there’s a need for only few pieces, but suppliers require a much greater number before agreeing to ship them. At times, the mere shipping time and cost is incentive enough to search for alternatives.

Different methods of production present themselves more clearly when the part has been digitized. As the original is digitized, it can also be redesigned to fit its purpose even better. In some cases, geometrical optimization allows manufacturing a lighter and stronger part. Other times, changing production technology and material brings about great benefits. Traditional means of manufacturing won’t go extinct, nor will additive manufacturing such as 3D printing solve all the problems. However, digitizing parts will provide new methods of manufacturing, ultimately affecting the supply of spare parts.

DIVA, a joint effort of Business Finland, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, and Aalto University to research prospects of digital replacement parts, estimates that a significant portion of spare parts will be manufactured using 3D printing in during the present decade.

Regards,


Svante Knuus
Product Manager – Maker3D