Whirlpool gets parts faster and cheaper with 3D printing

Whirlpool is a leading manufacturer of home appliances, including washers, dryers, heating and cooling units, freezers, refrigerators, and more. They provide consumers with smart, efficient appliances that make everyday life easier.

Challenge

Whirlpool manufactures many different appliances and each must have an emblem bearing the Whirlpool logo. These emblems are placed by hand in the production line. To ensure uniform positioning and alignment, Whirlpool made custom fixtures to aid employees with this task.

These fixtures were originally machined from plastic, but the cost of machining each fixture was thousands of dollars. Whirlpool engineers realized that 3D printing could produce these fixtures at a fraction of the cost of machining. They began 3D printing the fixtures at their in-house 3D printing facility at their headquarters in Michigan, but this facility had a lead time of 12-16 weeks due to the fact that it services all of Whirlpool’s plants.

This long lead time was exacerbated by the need to make the fixtures non-marring so they would not scratch the surface of the appliance during use. After waiting months for their parts, Whirlpool employees still had to take the time to apply a felt-like material to the contact surface fixture. Further still, this felt material was prone to tearing and falling off of the fixture, requiring that it be removed and reapplied.

Whirlpool decided to find an outside vendor who could 3D print their parts faster and help them find a better solution for making the fixtures non-marring. Ideally, they wanted to be able to order these parts from a single vendor and receive them in 1-2 weeks, ready to be used with the non-marring coating already applied and that’s exactly what they got from 3 Space.