3D Printing Supercharges Innovation

3D Printing Supercharges Innovation

By Andy Shang, Vice President of Engineering, Gold Medal Products Co.

Andy Shang, Vice President of Engineering, Gold Medal Products Co.

How does 3D printing benefit the manufacturing industry? There are many different tangible advantages of investing in this technology. Still, for the engineering department at Gold Medal Products Co., 3D printing has been a driving force behind fueling innovations in product development.

Gold Medal is considered the global leader in the concession food equipment and supplies industry. Headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, Gold Medal has an extensive history of success dating back to 1931. The company is known for over a dozen product lines, including popcorn, cotton candy, frozen treats, and more.

Transforming Ideas into Reality

The ability to innovate is critical in the food equipment category. Moving from ideation to vetted commercial products that are ready to market is more important than ever. 3D printing has revolutionized that process by providing the technology that not only pushes both creativity and strategy, and it also helps to reduce development risks.

"3D printing has proven that it is both an efficient and cost-effective option for overcoming those constraints"

In a highly competitive marketplace, accelerating speed to market is essential. Yet, many attempts to do so at the cost of quality. By incorporating 3D printing, we can take concepts and translate them into a physical representation to present in front of key decision-makers. The speed of 3D printing and the cost of entry give engineers the ability to take chances and think bigger. Two of the biggest challenges for prototyping are time and cost. 3D printing has proven that it is both an efficient and cost-effective option for overcoming those constraints.

3D Printing in Action

Gold Medal took on a pioneering technology project when tasked with creating Advanced Touch Screen Controls for Gold Medal’s Pop Clean® Elite Popper™ Series. These poppers are for large-volume venues and most commonly seen in movie theaters.

The engineering team relied on 3D printing to answer key questions surrounding the development of the touch screen casing. As the touch screen control interface was designed, several factors had to be considered, including placement away from the cooking and handling hazards of popping popcorn, the optimal location to address the operator line of sight, and how to protect the USB communication port. In traditional product development cycles, a prototype touch screen case would take 4 to 5 weeks to be ready for mockup. Plus, you always run the risk that it might need to be redesigned and repeated, adding more time and cost to the process.

Using the 3D printing process, the Gold Medal was able to create multiple iterations of the touch screen case in 2 weeks. This allowed the product development team to review different options and decide on the optimum viewing angle for the operator and the lid design to protect the USB port.

The success of the Touch Screen Controls has led the Gold Medal to consider 3D printing applications across its other product lines as well.

The Future of 3D Printing

3D printing has implications across all fields of manufacturing. It will revolutionize the design, development, and manufacture of all types of products. The prevalence of 3D printing will continue to grow and advance. The significance is that it not only accelerates the process and provides value; it adds important insights that can supercharge innovations.

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