AGCO engineers at the company’s three North American factories are using 3-D printers as they research and design new products and as they build and test prototype components for new pieces of equipment. Recently, seed meters for the new White Planters 9000 Series were engineered at the Hesston, Kan., factory with assistance from 3-D printers.

Rye DeGarmo, engineering manager for seeding and tillage at AGCO, says the 3-D printers provide a significant savings over processes such as tooling parts prototypes from aluminum.

“For example, an aluminum prototype could cost between $5,000 and $7,000 per version, while the plastic part can be created by the printer at a cost of $1,000 to $2,000 each for the needed materials,” DeGarmo says. “And it takes about a day for a prototype part to be created by the printer.”

DeGarmo says traditional tooling could take up to five weeks for a third party to design the component, followed by two weeks of research by the manufacturer. Using 3-D printing allows engineers to create and test up to five iterations of the part in a five-week period.

AGCO engineers create plastic components by feeding a 3-D model into a computer that guides the printer. About the size of a large copier, the printer can make a component up to roughly a 14x14x8-in. part. For larger parts, several small pieces are printed and glued together.