Let there be light. It’s a simple phrase that belies the production intricacies involved in manufacturing modern lighting solutions. A true ‘life essential’, lightbulbs are required in vast volumes yet their fundamental design necessitates precision assembly of delicate materials. Add to this the harsh realities of repeated furnace heating and rapid cooling, the wear and tear of continuous production and the absolute need for quality control, and it is clear to see that there is more to manufacturing the humble lightbulb than meets the eye.
So what if this process could be simplified? What if the assembly-line itself could epitomize the concept of ‘innovative thinking’ synonymous with the end product? Materialise and Philips Lighting decided to find out by utilizing 3D printing. The collaboration has already resulted in the ‘reinvention’ of a lamp holder previously prone to part failure, and the automation of a previously labor intensive line using lightweight design. Just these two innovations together are realizing cost savings of around €89,000 a year through the operational benefits they deliver.
Kick-Starting the Co-Creation Process
Founded in 1891 to manufacture incandescent lamps and other electrical products, Philips has been innovating for over 125 years. Employing some 850 staff, the Philips Lighting site in Turnhout (Belgium) plays a key role in maintaining that tradition and is widely recognized as the trendsetting world leader in the field of professional lighting technology. In fact Philips Turnhout often works in partnership with research centers based in Belgium and beyond on innovations in the field of high-pressure gas discharge lamps, from concept to production.
Interested in the potential that 3D printing – particularly metal printing – could help unlock in their production process, Philips Factory Engineering Designer, Danny Van der Jonckheyd and his team invited Materialise to the site to gain an in-depth understanding of Philips’ specific production line requirements.
Sven Hermans, Business Development Manager at Materialise recalls: “You have to see a line in action to truly appreciate the demands, strains and stresses on specific assembly elements, but also to understand the pressures on personnel. While at the site, we looked at parts and spoke with production line operatives, maintenance teams, factory engineers - as many people as we could in order to identify issues and areas ripe for enhancement that would be ideally suited to 3D printed solutions.
“Where could the option to use lighter materials have an impact? Where could structural design impossible or too expensive to realize using traditional manufacturing techniques to improve performance or reduce wastage? These were the types of question we worked on with the team at Philips.”
“We thought having to fix parts less often and more easily would be the biggest advantage but so far we haven’t had to replace any. Even if we were to consider this purely in terms of reduced maintenance technician time, we are already saving around €9,000 a year, plus the fact the technician can now concentrate on the real technical problems.