Need a Part? ET Can Print It
ET’s 3-D printed piece parts and fixtures offer increased part security by conforming to unusual shapes.
Engman-Taylor (ET) differentiates itself from competitors by providing customers with unique technical application services. ET is internally organized into “product centers” that include cutting tools, abrasives, power tools, safety, coolants, material handling, maintenance, vending and jan-san. Each product center is supported by dedicated personnel, inventory and demonstration/test areas known as “Solutions Centers.” Additive manufacturing (3-D printing) is the newest product center, and it is unique as ET is the only U.S. industrial distributor with an in-house 3-D program, “3D Parts Unlimited.”
3-D printing is often for creating prototypes. ET prints prototypes, but it also 3-D prints high-quality and high-volume end-use products, 3-D Engineer Jordan Nowak says.
The 3D Parts Unlimited operation consists of metal and plastics printers, including:
• Figure 4 Modular designed for digital light printing applications
• Markforged FDM technology
• ProX 200 direct metal laser sintering (DMLS)
• HP 4200 production multi jet fusion technology
ET runs hundreds or even thousands of parts in one print on the 4200 at a low cost. “You don’t see that much,” Nowak says. “We’re able to make finished OEM parts.”
ET is an industrial distribution company that also offers integrated supply, inventory control and tool optimization services. Carl and Joe Engman founded the firm in 1945 as Engman Brothers.
Initially a distributor for Carborundum Grinding Wheel, Bob Taylor acquired the firm and added products. It became Engman-Taylor in 1956.
3-D printing was initiated seven years ago. “We bought a desktop to learn the basics,” President and CEO Rick Star recalls. The company moved further into the business after hiring Nowak, an engineering graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with 3-D printing expertise.
Today, ET provides printing services to new markets and to its existing clients, primarily manufacturing companies. “For our existing customers, we print custom work-holding and machine parts,” Nowak adds. “The replacement part advantage is that we have parts to the customer in a couple of days. The work-holding advantages are printed fixtures that conform to unusually shaped piece parts, with quick changeover that minimizes downtime. These fixtures are also available in days.”
Making Better Products
Star says ET has set itself apart by serving customers in ways that its larger competitors do not. “They don’t have the desire to build a 3-D printing operation. While we see 3-D printing as a growth complement to our existing business, the nationals see 3-D printing as a cool technology that is unrelated to them,” he says.
ET regularly advises users on ways to make their products better. Many 3-D competitors, Nowak notes, will take the client’s 3-D CAD model, print and ship it without any questions.
But when clients go to ET, they receive advice on how to improve their designs. “Their application will be enhanced and they’re going to save money via redesign,” he says.
This can be particularly useful with metal 3-D printing. “With metals, if the product is designed for subtractive manufacturing, it shouldn’t be 3-D printed because it’s going to be at a higher cost,” Nowak explains. “People need to realize that they need to design for additive manufacturing for metals to incorporate all the benefits that 3-D printing provides.”
ET can also make its clients’ products lighter, providing even more benefits. If they come to the company with a design for a jig or fixture, “We have a lot of latticing capabilities in-house where we can light-weight their design,” Nowak says.
“Mechanically, everything moves better when the parts are lighter,” he continues, noting that this allows Engman-Taylor to print products more easily and reduce lead times. “When we get those fixtures to a customer faster at a lower cost, they’re saving exponentially.”
Star agrees, noting that this also sets Engman-Taylor apart from its competitors. “We provide these technical solutions to the customer application on an on-demand basis,” he says. “It also reduces downtime.”
The on-demand, 3-D printing process also helps clients reduce the amount of inventory they stock. “They can eliminate shelves of fixturing components or just-in-case repair parts,” Nowak says. “Instead of ordering 50 to 100 of them, due to our two- [to] three-day lead times, they can now on-demand-order from us these parts in lower quantities.”
While many clients come to ET looking for the best price, they often are impressed by its ability to design and manufacture in-house. “Once we get them a product they like, they typically come back and order multiple times,” Nowak says.
“We will continue adding unique applications to our portfolio for customers,” he adds. “We will continue to tie 3-D printing into our industrial distribution company.”