A piece of kit which can produce replacement machine parts within an hour is being put through its paces being at a County Durham mailing firm.
MetroMail, based in Seaham, is testing out 3D Printing, a process for making a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model using layers of carbon, and or nylon, in this case.
The process looks set to have massive benefits for the company, which has millions of pounds worth of machinery at its 140,000 sq ft factory, which routinely needs servicing and parts replacing.
The firm does stock a number of replacement parts but certain prototypes have to be ordered in, sometimes from foreign countries, which can often take a number of days impacting upon productivity.
The dimensions of a part can be fed into the carbon 3D Printing machine and a replacement is available for use in about 45 minutes to an hour.
Metromail is currently using the products from the machine on its polywrapping and envelope-closing machines.
Special projects manager Paul Anderson said: “We are still in the trialling stages of using carbon 3D Printing, which is quite simply for making parts quickly and effectively.
“The products produced by the carbon 3D Printing machine are made out of carbon, which is a lot stronger than plastic, but a lot cheaper than metal.
“We are not planning on using this commercially, we aim to use it in-house on our machinery which has hundreds of thousands of parts in them.
“It is simply not possible to keep a lot of engineering spares on site – there is always going to be something that is needed, and this potentially looks like the answer.
“We’re currently using some of the carbon 3D printed parts on our machines and we’re still waiting for them to break a month or so down the line.”