The leader in their markets, Wiremold, a part of the Legrand Group, focuses on the development and manufacturing of Wire and Cable Management products to serve the power, communication and A/V industry. Wiremold designs and builds products constructed from sheet steel and aluminum, zinc and aluminum die casting, plastic injection molding and plastic and aluminum extrusions.
Headquartered in West Hartford, Connecticut, Wiremold’s designs are created by 17 local engineers, and 12 additional engineers on their China support team. A segment of the engineers from West Hartford and the China team are focused on new product development, packaging and value engineering. The remaining engineers focus on continuous product support and custom engineering, making Wiremold a powerhouse of engineering development.
In the past Wiremold utilized a full time model maker and their in-house tool room to fabricate prototypes using lathes, milling centers and hand fabrication techniques. CAD files would be sent out for SLA printing as they developed products with plastic components. With growing demands for faster iteration turn over and a desire to reduce expense on outsourcing, Legrand Wiremold turned to Stratasys Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printers for quick, reliable prototyping.
FDM was first introduced to the Wiremold engineers through a Stratasys Dimension 3D printer. The machine delivered quality thermoplastic parts within hours, cutting their design and iteration times drastically. The 3D printer was efficient for their needs, but over time the team out grow its capacity and decided to upgrade to a Fortus 400mc for its larger capabilities, a broader selection of materials and build options.
With the Stratasys Fortus 400mc Wiremold has been able to decrease their time to market with quality prototypes, used to support their Voice of the Customer (VOC) confirmation process. 3D printed models are used for a variety of development functions including conceptual ideation and approval, agency review and preliminary testing, as well as tollgate function approval. Additionally manufacturing engineering is able to utilize the printers to develop tools and fixtures to fine-tune the production process. Senior Design Engineer and Project Manager, Joe Milheiro, described how the engineering team easily adapted to the Fortus 400mc:
“The Fortus [400mc] is very straightforward to use and quickly sets up to run a part at a moment’s notice. The Fortus is also used primarily to validate concepts and large parts that don’t require high detail. It seems to always be the first choice in the earlier stages of development. This can range from reviewing a single part all the way up to a functioning multipart assembly.”
With the success of the Fortus 400mc, Legrand Wiremold was interested in expanding their in-house prototyping, concentrating on soft durometer parts and components with finer details. Director of Engineering, New Product Development, Tony Vargas explained why they approached CAPINC for guidance:
“We already had years of experience working with CAPINC on the SOLIDWORKS and Enterprise PDM products and knew they would help us to find the right printer to meet our requirements for small detailed parts.”
The Stratasys Objet Eden260V was the best choice for Legrand Wiremold’s intricate project designs and various sized components. Utilizing the PolyJet technology, the engineering team has been able to produce prototypes with fine details, resembling the finished product, via the printer’s multi-material options. Joe Milheiro described how the new technology has enhanced their in-house capabilities:
“The Objet [Eden260V] is great at enabling us to make prototypes with finer detail that are closer to the final aesthetic state of the actual part. These higher finished states have also been employed by our Industrial Design group to validate their design language.”
Having both FDM and PolyJet options has enabled Legrand Wiremold to work through design concepts at a faster pace, providing larger scale rough models and finer detail small finished models. The two technologies have also allowed the engineers to create and validate fixtures for components used in assembly. In several instances they have been able to make sheet metal bending fixtures to prove function before making them in steel. Joe explained how the machines have greatly changed their design process:
“In general 3D printing has helped us to shorten the various design validation steps throughout the different stages of the design process. The Eden allows us to make soft durometer parts and gives us greater material options… [T]he Eden is used for smaller parts with finer detail, better surface finish, and for evaluation of snap functions.”
By having the FDM and PolyJet 3D printers in-house, Legrand Wiremold can respond to an issue quickly and bring solutions back to their teams while the issues are still fresh in everyone’s minds. The engineers at Wiremold are able to take prototypes to their customers and get instant feedback. Joe believes that the 3D printers have allowed for greater communication:
“Having the 3D printers has enabled us to pursue avenues of design that we may have been hesitant to try previously because of the uncertainty of how certain features might work together. It has also helped the design team be able to better communicate our ideas to the manufacturing teams to get their input earlier in the process.”
A leader in wire and cable management products, Legrand Wiremold looked to the leader in 3D printing technologies. By having both FDM and PolyJet technologies in-house they have been able to greatly decrease the time to market for their innovative designs. Tony is not only a believer in the 3D printing technologies they use, but in CAPINC as their Value-Added Reseller:
“After many years working with the team at CAPINC, they have come to know us very well and you stick with a winner.”