OcuGlass Heads Back to School for 3-D Printed Parts
Acid-etched fabricator OcuGlass was faced with a reoccurring problem, so it turned to high school students for help. The Calumet, Mich.-based company was repairing or replacing a key piece in its process equipment repeatedly, which was costing them excessive production downtime. Importing equipment parts from overseas takes weeks and is expensive. So, OcuGlass partnered with the Dollar Bay-Tamarack City Area Schools’ Student Organization of Aquatic Robotics (SOAR), which printed the parts with a 3-D printer.
“The system was designed and manufactured in Italy, and the replacement parts come from Italy. Lead times were up to eight weeks, not to mention the parts were very expensive,” says Brad Aldrich, CEO of OcuGlass. “The equipment is four years old, and there’s been a lot of wear in that time.”
Andrew Rose, a Michigan Tech undergraduate mechanical engineering intern with the company, had experience with 3-D printing and suggested the process as a way to cut lead times and costs. OcuGlass director of engineering Jeff Stevens is a member of the Dollar Bay-Tamarack City Area Schools board of education. He was familiar with the SOAR program, a student-run, non-profit high school project-based class that allows students to design and create using 3-D printing technology. He approached the group about a collaboration.
The initial project included re-creating a geometrically complex part for 3-D printing and providing that part to OcuGlass for use in their process equipment.
“The students wanted to do more real-world projects. Andrew met with the students and designed the parts for 3-D printing. The students would then print the prototypes, and Andrew would tweak the drawings based on what needed to be changed. We were able to select our own materials from the prototypes, resulting in a better product,” says Aldrich, “Right now they are printing two different parts with a two-day lead time. We pay market value, but there’s no shipping costs. We’re currently working on prototypes for two more parts.”
Aldrich has no plans to bring the 3-D printing operation in-house, or to patent the parts, which have been modified from the original Italian parts.
“I prefer our relationship with the school over an in-house operation. We’re big on community involvement and our internship program,” he says. “Andrew is brilliant. His designs are more accurate and have better interface characteristics. We have no plans to resell the parts, so we’re not thinking about patenting the designs at this time.”
Rose, under the direction of Stevens, has been the lead point of contact for the students and their advisor, Matt Zimmer.
The goal is to have a long-term partner-ship with SOAR consistently providing parts to OcuGlass. “The students develop proficiency in scheduling, material selection and professional communication between clients and designers, along with advancing countless other skills to solve real problems,” says Zimmer.
Aldrich says that 3-D printing could definitely be used more in the glass industry.
“3-D printing capabilities are amazing. The chemical materials for the parts have to be so specific, and 3-D printing allows for those specifics. I see the process having a big effect on equipment, but I don’t see it changing the way we make glass,” he says.
Goldray Industries Sells Ontario Operations to BG Glass Technologies
Calgary-based Goldray Industries has sold its Barrie, Ontario glass fabrication plant to BG Glass Technologies (BGGT). Goldray had opened the plant as a distribution center in 2013.
“Over the next couple of years [after opening], we added other capabilities such as tempering, fabrication, back-painting and heat soaking. The plant is now a fully functioning glass fabrication facility with state-of-the-art equipment. The quality of tempered glass that is produced in the Barrie facility is second to none in the area,” says Goldray Industries CEO and president Cathie Saroka.
“We decided to sell the factory in Barrie because the products that we were able to produce there did not fit with our core business. Also, managing this location remotely was a challenge right from the beginning … In the summer of 2017, it became clear to us that selling this location to someone that could be more successful would be the best option and also allow us to focus more on our core business and customers across North America.”
BGGT began using the plant the day the company took it over from Goldray.
According to Saroka, the Barber family, which has run BGGT for more than 135 years, will be a great fit for the location.
“With [BGGT president] John Barber’s extensive experience in glass fabrication and strong relationships with Ontario customers, architects and designers, it seemed like a winning solution for us both that he takes over the factory and set up a business that can better take care of our customers and employees,” she says.
Goldray used the plant to sell mainly to customers in the greater Toronto area. BGGT plans to produce and dis-tribute a wide range of architectural glass products. The company has a five-year growth plan that will service South Western Ontario and the Northern United States.
“This facility has highly specialized heat treatment equipment focusing on tempering, heat soaking, backpainting and all types of glass fabrication including five-axis CNC,” says Chris Barber, sales and project management at BGGT. “BGGT will also be distributing a wide range of mirror products as well as glass ranging in thicknesses from 4 mm to 19 mm in clear and low-iron to start, with plans to expand our product base in the future.”
Goldray plans to sharpen its focus on decorative glass.
Crawford-Tracey Expands Manufacturing Capacity
Crawford-Tracey Corp., a Florida-based glazing contractor specializing in unitized and pre-glazed curtainwall and window wall products, has purchased its neighboring property. The site includes two buildings of 41,000 square feet which will be used to expand its production operations and inventory capabilities.
The new buildings more than double the company’s current facility of 40,000 square feet. Both buildings will be used with a new production layout that will move product and assemblies from one building to another sequentially. The new work flow will allow simultaneous glass deliveries on one side of the facility while the production of the glazing units will be completed and shipped out the the opposite side, increasing overall capacity and fabrication efficiencies.
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