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An Interview with Harold Sears, Ford Motor Company
July 31, 2015
We originally posted about Ford Motor Company’s strong 3D printing initiative at their Beech Daly Technical Center back in early July. For those not familiar, the facility is a 24-hour location that is used to prototype parts for future vehicles as well as cast production-representative prototype parts. Using an array of 3D printers technicians are able to do amazing things with the technology. But that’s far from the whole story. One of their employees, Kevin Sowles, has taken it to a new level by introducing new and enhanced tools that improve efficiencies and streamline processes at the facility. After reaching out to Ford, we were connected with Harold Sears, a company veteran and Additive Manufacturing Technical Specialist who told us a little more about their company and their 3D printing efforts. The interview was conducted via email and the transcript is below.
1) When was the Beech Daly Lab established and for what purpose?
2) How long has the lab been using 3D printing for prototyping?
3) What kinds of 3D printers are you using to design the various parts and now, more recently, these tools?
4) What inspired the creation of these new tools to begin with?
5) What are they mainly constructed of? What advantages/disadvantages have you noticed with the material? How long do they take to print?
6) In the instance that one of these new tools breaks, do you simply print off a new one, or do you take a look at the current design to see if improvements could be made?
7) What are some of the next tools you are hoping to develop?
8) To work at the Beech Daly Technical Center, do you have to have a background in engineering, fabrication, or design already, or is there sufficient on the job training?
9) With the success of the 3D printed tools at your plant, has there been any talk of using them or designing new ones to be used at other Ford labs/plants?
Ford has also made tools that act as assembly aids for production facilities as well as making tools that are used to make direct production level parts. The technology also allows engineers to experiment with more radical, innovative part designs inexpensively and quickly.
10) What do you think are some of the key skills needed for this next generation (and maybe the current one as well) to be able to meet the challenges of design and prototyping? Does your center accept internships or co-ops where students can come in and learn these skills?