Funky juice concoctions and healthy snacks is not all Vitamix is shaking up. The manufacturer of high-end consumer and commercial blenders has partnered with a new 3D printing upstart to put new digital processes in place to re-imagine part design and manufacturing.
Collaborating with Carbon and its contract manufacturing partner, The Technology House (TTH), Vitamix embarked on a project to re-imagine the design and production of a pressurized nozzle in its commercial line of blenders. The original nozzle design was comprised of six injection-molded pieces, and the company was looking for an alternative that could hold up better in commercial-grade applications where there is constant exposure to high pressures and temperatures not to mention, harsh chemicals like bleach, detergents, and other cleansing agents.
TTH initially recommended additive manufacturing as a more efficient way to produce the multi-part nozzle. However, the design team quickly realized that it should go further and create a wholly new design as a monolithic part that could hold up better in the harsh environment. That’s where Carbon’s advanced AM technologies came into play, including its durable Rigid Polyurethane (RPU) materials and proprietary Digital Light Synthesis (DLS) technology, which is said to employ digital light projection and other innovations to produce parts with consistently predictable mechanical properties, resolutions, and surface finishes.
“Carbon would be especially useful here because of the company’s ability to print complex designs as one part rather than multiple,” notes Gurjeev Chadha, Carbon’s head of product marketing.
The two main design objections for the nozzle redesign made the Carbon technology the right fit: The new piece had to be able to withstand chemical cleaning products and jet water at high speeds and pressure in a pattern that would require very specific and fine geometry, Chadha explains. Carbon’s RPU material ensured the part was tough enough to withstand the environmental and chemical conditions, he says, while the DLS technology ensured the part could be produced with complex geometries and channels along with an excellent surface finish.
DLS technology also ensured a speedy and iterative product development journey, Chadha says. “Product engineers managed to iterate six to seven times on the nozzle design within a span of only four weeks while a single design iteration with the injection molded approach would have taken eight to 10 weeks,” he explains.
When Vitamix began testing the new nozzle design, which has 300 micron holes in the nozzle and complex microfluidic channel structures, it found the 3D printed version was even more durable (up to 10x, Chadha contends) than the nozzle manufactured with traditional injected molding practices. In addition, the single part design made for a more economical approach as it ended up using 30% less material, and it was able to meet the demands of Vitamix’s stringent quality control process, passing more than 1.5 million cycle tests without any failures.
Given the redesign success, Vitamix is now actively considering how to apply the Carbon AM technology to other projects. “It’s hard not to think about how that component now interacts with other components,” Chadha says. “Perhaps this new tool and the new design freedom mindset can be leveraged across other existing parts.”
Watch this video to learn more about the Vitamix nozzle redesign project.