USA: News of Haier’s 3D-printed air conditioner provoked much industry interest last month. One Florida-based refrigeration contractor has been using the technology for more than a year to produce 3D-models of refrigeration systems.
The Stellar Group has been using 3D printers to provide refrigeration clients with 3D models they can touch and feel.
Stellar uses 3D printing during the initial design phase of refrigeration projects, specifically for skid-mounted refrigeration systems and refrigeration machine room designs. The 3D model is built on the company’s CAD programme, the information then being entered into one of its two MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printers.
Each of the individual pieces of the model are printed in the colours that correspond with Stellar’s refrigeration piping colour standards, with each colour representing a different refrigerant or type of surface.
According to the company, the 3D model complements what’s on the computer screen and makes the revision process from both sides much easier, breaking down the communication barriers that tend to arise with the computer models.
On the company’s Food for Thought blog, Stellar refrigeration design intern Phillip Rowley explains that it’s easier to touch and point out something specific on a tangible, 3D model rather than on a flat screen.
The fabricator can use the model to ensure the parts are installed correctly eliminating common issues, like pipe routing, connection locations and clearance, that tend to come up in the construction process.
Stellar was established in 1985 as a 12-person company specialising in refrigeration contracting, maintenance, service and parts supply. But the company diversified quickly to become a diversified contracting firm. Today, Stellar has matured into a full-service firm with more than 600 employees, offering multifaceted design and construction services to businesses around the world. Throughout much of its recent history, Stellar has been continually ranked as one of the nation’s Top 25 companies in the design-build industry and among the top 100 contractors in the United States.