How OECHSLER Went From Design to Serial Production of Riddell Helmet Liners in 100 Days

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • OECHSLER has one of the largest Carbon fleets in the world with more than 150 Carbon L1 printers across three continents
  • OECHSLER produced and delivered hundreds of thousands of parts to Riddell in just 100 days using Carbon
  • The Carbon DLS 3D printing process provided OECHSLER with benefits including mass customization, consolidation of parts, and flexibility

The ability to bring products to market faster allows companies to be more competitive. OECHSLER, one of the largest parts manufacturers in the additive industry, has been helping customers do just that since 1864. With its headquarters in Germany and additional facilities in Asia and North America, OECHSLER can manufacture parts where it makes sense for its customers.

While additive manufacturing has recently gained more traction as a technology for producing end-use parts, OECHSLER was an early pioneer and began investing in additive manufacturing in 2010. OECHSLER now has roughly 200 3D printers in its facilities worldwide, along with in-depth experience with many well-known 3D printing companies.

3D printing technology has allowed OECHSLER to deliver a wide range of parts to its customers with exceptional quality, speed, and cost savings. So, when the manufacturer was looking to expand its serial additive manufacturing business internationally, it needed a 3D printing solution that could scale and produce parts globally, quickly, and consistently. OECHSLER found the perfect solution with the Carbon L1 printer.

 

A partnership shaped through Carbon DLS

OECHSLER began its partnership with Carbon in 2017 and has since grown its fleet to over 150 L1 printers — one of the largest globally — with more than 500 tons of resin processed and producing over two million printed parts in Germany and China.

The Carbon Digital Light Synthesis (Carbon DLS) 3D printing process provided OECHSLER with numerous benefits over conventional manufacturing, including mass customization, consolidation of parts, and flexibility. Using the Carbon DLS process, OECHSLER created end-use parts with consistently high quality across two different continents, allowing it to scale production and move faster, resulting in more high-volume projects.

 

“At OECHSLER, we believe that fast, flexible solutions are the future for our industry, including high volume serial production. As we push the capabilities of 3D printing and Carbon’s technology, we’re redefining the limits of how fast and flexible we can be.”
Adam JonesVice President of Operations at OECHSLER Motion

 

Benefits of a globally distributed fleet

In December 2019, OECHSLER’s team visited Carbon’s headquarters in Redwood City, California, to kick off a project with Riddell for the commercial launch of its SpeedFlex Diamond Helmet. Riddell needed helmet liners to be delivered in three months—a big undertaking for any manufacturer—but OECHSLER knew it had the expertise and experience to deliver. With the helmet liners designed with additive in mind, OECHSLER quickly created a fully functional prototype. In less than 100 days after the initial project meeting with Carbon and Riddell, OECHSLER began serial production.

With an already aggressive timeline for the product launch, OECHSLER needed to leverage each of its production sites’ unique strengths and capabilities to deliver on time. At OECHSLER’s German headquarters, the team used its extensive knowledge of materials, processes, and products to quickly ramp up production. Meanwhile, combining its Carbon L1 printer fleets in China and Germany provided OECHSLER with a tremendous ability to scale. Everything was going as planned until the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

 

Pivoting strategies during the pandemic

Manufacturing during a pandemic required OECHSLER to rethink its production strategy. Typically, OECHSLER’s specialists would travel between sites to oversee production. However, this was no longer possible due to travel restrictions. Keeping teams aligned across three time zones was challenging, yet critical to this project’s success. OECHSLER leaned on its well-established communication and project management system, working closely with Carbon and Riddell on process development, validation, testing, industrialization, and optimization to meet project goals.

OECHSLER’s familiarity with navigating challenges associated with industrializing production processes made it easier to find ways to work around the pandemic restrictions. With its commitment to site-independent quality standards, OECHSLER took steps along the entire process to ensure that each site would deliver the same quality standards and precisely the same product performance.

At the beginning of the project, OECHSLER validated files to ensure that the helmet liner design and parameters yielded consistent serial production results. Carbon software allowed the manufacturer to easily track and share product and process performance throughout production. Having a single dashboard with live data on every printer across three continents helped the team stay aligned and made troubleshooting issues more straightforward. Before delivering parts to Riddell, OECHSLER performed a 100% compression check as a final validation of part and process performance.

 

OECHSLER scores a touchdown with Riddell

The Carbon DLS process, paired with OECHSLER’s industrialization experience, allowed the team to move from prototype to serial 3D production of the helmet liners in less than 100 days. Within the first 100 days of serial production, OECHSLER delivered hundreds of thousands of helmet liners for the Riddell SpeedFlex Diamond Helmet, now ranked one of the NFL’s best-performing helmets.

While the pandemic introduced many unforeseen challenges to this project, the Carbon DLS process made it easier for OECHSLER to keep its production facilities in Germany and China in sync. This project would have been much more difficult if it had used a more manual or tooling-intensive production method. The experience of navigating pandemic-related challenges has further strengthened the partnership between OECHSLER and Carbon.

 

“The Carbon DLS process helped our team go from first prints to serial production in less than 100 days,and delivered parts from two continents within the next 100 days. This achievement highlights rapid industrialization, one of OECHSLER’s core competencies, and the flexibility and speed enabled by Carbon DLS.”
Lena RudelSenior Director of Technology Management at OECHSLER Motion

 

Expanding production to the US

Following the project’s success, OECHSLER is already preparing for serial production of the next generation of helmet liners for the Riddell SpeedFlex Diamond Helmet in its newly launched US additive manufacturing facility in metro Atlanta, Georgia. When planning for this new location, OECHSLER reflected on insights gained from its existing facilities, using them to strengthen its capabilities. With the US location expanding its global presence to three continents, OECHSLER can serve customers in the world’s largest additive manufacturing market better with its high-speed and flexible production facility and, of course, a fleet of Carbon printers.