The goal at Littlestar is to provide perfect products with 100 percent on-time delivery. That means we must continuously invest in cutting-edge training and equipment. Last year, we invested in five Keyence Measuring Systems (KMS), which allow operators to optically measure up to 99 part dimensions and record the data in seconds. The time saved has allowed us to produce more parts in less time.
Many of our parts are complicated, so we found that we could save even more time if we built a custom fixture to hold those parts in place on the KMS. The fixtures allow us to measure the more complex, tight-tolerance parts by taking out as much human intervention as possible. That is necessary to get to zero defects.
Fixtures, however, take time to build. They are almost always one-offs. Once designed, we have to go to one of our production machines, break the setup, change the tooling, cut new material and program it to make a single fixture.
That process typically takes four or more hours. That’s time that would have been better spent actually making parts. Back in February, we bought our first Markforged X7 3D printer. Although 3D printers are more widely known for rapid prototyping, for the time being we’re using ours as a tool room machine. Now, instead of interrupting the machining schedule on the shop floor, we can design a fixture and have it made by the 3D printer in the same time it would have taken to do it manually. This smooths out the workflow and makes it much easier to adjust and improve fixtures if the first design isn’t exactly right.
The Markforged investment was significant, and it will likely take a couple of years for it to pay for itself. But the savings to Littlestar and the benefit to our customers will only snowball as we eliminate time lost to machining fixtures.
Companies come to Littlestar because of our ability to prototype, machine, mold and mass-produce high-tolerance performance-polymer components. When it’s critical, they choose Littlestar because we partner with our clients to find the best way to meet their goals. Our investment in the Markforged 3D printer is just one of the ways we deliver the best possible quality at the best possible price. Contact us to learn more about Littlestar and our commitment to quality.