Caterpillar in partnership to develop 3DP aluminium, titanium parts

Caterpillar Inc. has an agreement in place with FIT AG to design and produce aluminium and titanium parts using additive manufacturing technologies. “Caterpillar has a long history of creating innovative products designed to fit the needs of our customers, and entering into a strategic alliance with a leader in additive manufacturing will help further that tradition,” according to Stacey DelVecchio, Caterpillar Additive Manufacturing project manager.

Financial details of the “strategic alliance” were not revealed, but a statement by FIT indicated the agreement has “an initial three-year term and will evolve to the next step based on the success of the alliance.”

Caterpillar will contribute “product-specific knowledge” to the projects, while FIT AG will contribute expertise in additive design. The OEM noted the relationship would complement its ongoing work at the Caterpillar’s Additive Manufacturing Factory, in Mossville, Ill. USA, which produces parts and prototypes for Caterpillar commercial programmes and research projects.

Caterpillar is active in additive manufacturing, having set up a series of capabilities at its operations in Mossville and Mapleton, Ill. USA, to develop new concepts and produce prototypes, parts, and moulds for its finished products. Some sources indicate Caterpillar has over 80 3D printers in service of its R&D and production programmes.

A differential housing showing its intricate inner life and an aluminium gear housing 3D printed as a single piece, both manufactured by FIT AG

“Not only will Caterpillar now have access to FIT AG’s cutting-edge technologies in additive manufacturing but this alliance will also help accelerate our adoption of 3D printing,” according to DelVecchio.

Other issues, like the proprietorship of alloys or technologies that may be developed, were also not reported.

FIT AG is a holding company with subsidiaries that offer rapid prototyping (FIT Prototyping GmbH) and additive design and manufacturing (FIT Production GmbH) services. The latter uses multi-laser melting as well as electron-beam melting technologies to produce 3D-printed metal parts.

“We are thrilled to enter into a strategic alliance with Caterpillar,” according to Carl Fruth, CEO of FIT AG. “Caterpillar is a world leader in many markets, which will benefit greatly from additive manufacturing. However, this requires innovative technologies and new thinking combined with experience and deep know-how. Our companies complement each other with their respective strengths.”