Caterpillar adds spaces to further technology in 3D printing and innovation

On March 31, Caterpillar celebrated the grand opening of three new innovation spaces at its Global Research & Development Center in Mossville, Illinois. Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Doug ribbon-cutting-cat-555Oberhelman, Chief Technology Officer/Vice President Gwenne Henricks, and Vice Presidents George Taylor and Tana Utley welcomed guests and expressed their excitement about this investment in the next generation of Caterpillar innovation.

“Our 3D printing future is exciting — from castings to parts to other larger possibilities,” said Oberhelman.  “The Accelerator is going to move us farther even faster with so many innovations. I can’t wait to see the results — for Caterpillar and for our customers.”

The 3D Printing & Innovation Accelerator features three state-of-the-art new spaces:

  • Innovation Accelerator – Mossville, IL
  • Additive Manufacturing Factory – Mossville, IL
  • Cat® MicroFoundry – Mapleton, IL

Innovation Accelerator. Caterpillar’s Innovation Accelerator is a two-story space where Caterpillar team members go to let their imaginations run wild, dreaming up and modeling that next great innovation in a setting that inspires creativity. Upstairs, the teams meet to brainstorm game-changing ideas and explore endless possibilities. Downstairs in the Maker Space, they experiment with physical materials to rough-model their concepts using a variety of tools. When the teams want a more precise version of their model, they can walk across the hallway to the Additive Manufacturing Factory for a nuanced 3D model, or connect with the production team members who can machine the final part.

A 3D printed Sprocket created at  Caterpillar's Additive Manufacturing Facility.
A 3D printed Sprocket created at Caterpillar’s Additive Manufacturing Facility.

Additive Manufacturing Factory. Caterpillar has been actively engaged in 3D printing technology for many years in a variety of our facilities, but the new Additive Manufacturing Factory allows us to take this to a whole new level, with a focus on components (parts). With this centralized location of both commercial and high-end prototype 3D printers, Caterpillar has the ability to better serve our customers, increase the efficiency of internal operations and do exploratory research and development with the latest technology.

Cat® MicroFoundry. Caterpillar invests a great deal of resources each year on castings: machine parts that are created by pouring liquid material into a mold. Castings are used for a variety of applications and are critical to the life of our products. For some applications—such as prototypes, slow-moving parts, or other one-offs—only a few castings are needed each year. These low-volume castings are costly and time-consuming to create. But now, the launch of our new Cat® MicroFoundry located in our existing larger foundry in Mapleton, Illinois, enables rapid creation of low-volume castings using sand 3D printing technology. The work done in this new space will positively—and in some ways dramatically—impact cost, time, quality and waste reduction.