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Caterpillar has entered into a partnership with Additive Manufacturing (AM) solutions provider FIT AG, a move that will see FIT AG become the company’s main provider of 3D printing technology.

Announcing the deal, Caterpillar’s project manager for additive manufacturing Stacey DelVecchio said the partnership should be of immense benefit to her company.

“Caterpillar has a tradition of creating innovative products to meet the needs of our customers, she said. “Entering into this partnership can only help strengthen our position in that respect.”

DelVeccho also believes that the new alliance with FIT AG will accelerate Caterpillar’s adoption of 3D printing.

“This alliance will give us access to FT AG’s state of the art cutting technologies in AM which should help accelerate our adoption of the technology.”

The first order of business, according to Caterpillar, will be to explore how AM can be leveraged in industrial equipment manufacturing.

The news comes just days after the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) unveiled the world’s first 3D-printed excavator at the CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2017. With the help of partners, ORNL printed a hydraulically powered excavator, a reminder that the time has finally come for manufacturing to take 3D printing seriously. The excavator’s 400 pound, seven foot long boom was printed using low cost steel and features built-in channels for fluid power elements. The heat exchanger was printed using aluminum while the cab was made from carbon fiber-reinforced ABS plastic.

Caterpillar hopes that their alliance with FIT AG can lead to similar breakthroughs. With at least 250 employees in Boston and Germany, FIT AG is already a globally recognized 3D printing firm. Adding Caterpillar to its list of partners can only enhance their reputation in the industrial manufacturing sector. The initial deal is a three-year contract but it can be renewed based on the success of the collaboration.

This is not the first major investment the construction equipment manufacturer is making in 3D printing. In March last year, Caterpillar launched a 3D Printing & Innovation Accelerator at its Global Research and Development Center in Mossville, Illinois. The accelerator includes a state of the art Additive Manufacturing Factory as well as an Innovation Accelerator.

It remains to be seen how these investments add up. Will they be the beginning of the much awaited revolution in the sector? That’s anyone’s guess. In the meantime, Caterpillar says they will solely focus on building better components (parts) to better serve their customers.
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