By Melissa Donovan
Founded in 1873 and headquartered in Kohler, WI, Kohler Co. is a global leader in the manufacture of kitchen and bath products, engines and power generation systems, cabinetry, and tile and home interiors.
The KALLISTA division of Kohler recently embarked on a journey with 3D printing beyond prototyping and into production quantities.
Above: Indianapolis, IN-based 3rd Dimension created the Grid sink faucet for KALLISTA using 3D Systems ProX DMP 320.
Maintaining a Luxurious Feel
KALLISTA kitchen and bath products started in 1979 by two entrepreneurs recognizing the need for luxury bath products and color options in the U.S. Part of Kohler since 1989, the company is one of the three brands under the Kohler Decorative Products Group.
“We are known for the design of luxury plumbing products, offering faucets and fixtures thoughtfully created for tasteful, whole-bath solutions. Precise functionality, purity of form, selection of materials, and superb finish all play a role and testament to our ideal to ‘live artfully’—the foundation upon which KALLISTA has built its brand,” shares Bill McKeone, design studio manager, KALLISTA.
In 2017, McKeone was tasked with designing the “ideal” faucet for the brand. The result, the Grid sink faucet, which is both minimalistic and geometric in style with unique design elements that defy standard requirements of external housing to incorporate internal components. McKeone was inspired by the fundamentals found in the De Stijl movement, which advocated the de-massing of design.
To bring his design to market, McKeone collaborated with metal 3D printing specialist, 3rd Dimension, a premier provider of metal additive manufacturing services and solutions. The two entities had previously met in 2014 at an industry conference. The foray would be the first additively manufactured product for KALLISTA.
In a New Dimension
In business since 2013, 3rd Dimension is housed in a 4,500 square foot production facility with plans to expand in the coming months. The Indianapolis, IN-based company offers metal printing, machining, and engineering consultations.
Bob Markley, president, 3rd Dimension, first heard about additive manufacturing/3D printing on the radio in the early 2010s. “That got me thinking about opening a service bureau. At the time, the metal printing industry had seen some early success, but it was still very new and there was a lot of hype that we had to breakthrough to really provide value to our clients,” he explains.
3rd Dimension runs both additive and subtractive machines. Markley says that in many cases the two are complementary. “We find that most of our additive parts need some traditional machining in order to meet customer specifications. There is no way we could do what we do without having both,” he continues.
It owns a 3D Systems, Inc. ProX DMP 320 system, which features a unique vacuum chamber design with ideal oxygen purity during the manufacturing process. Additionally, the bi-direction feed system, removable print module, robust modular design, and optimized material database make the ProX DMP 320 well suited for delivering production-grade metal parts.
A beta tester, 3rd Dimension was no stranger to the technology, as the ProX DMP 320 was its fourth metal additive manufacturing system. During testing, Markley felt confident the device could be leveraged as a production solution. This was particularly because of the quick turn between builds and a large build area that enables more parts to be run per plate.
“Additive manufacturing allows companies to expand their product portfolio, improve productivity, shorten product lifecycle development cycles, and lower total cost of operation—which gives tremendous competitive advantage,” explains David Cullen, director of application engineering, 3D Systems.
During early talks with KALLISTA, 3rd Dimension understood the Grid sink faucet project would take place with a production environment in mind. “Everything from how we set the part up and supported it to parameters and post processing, was planned to maximize efficiency and keep costs reasonable,” says Markley.
The Grid sink faucet was an ideal candidate for 3D printing or more specifically metal additive manufacturing. “When we looked at the geometry of the part KALLISTA wanted to produce, it was quickly apparent that it was not possible through traditional manufacturing methods. 3D printing—specifically metal additive manufacturing—was the only method to produce it,” shares Markley.
To address the need for production quantities, the faucet was created on the ProX DMP 320. Features like the quick turn between builds and larger than normal build volume allowed 3rd Dimension to maximize uptime. Six parts are run per plate in approximately 40 hours. Eight parts could fit, but the run time is longer and finishes at odd hours in the night. This requires multiple shifts, reduces efficiency, and increases cost.
The ProX DMP 320 is equipped with 3D Systems’ 3DXpert, an integrated software solution that allows for the completion of a variety of tasks—all in one tool. These tasks include data import, geometry optimization, lattice and surface texture creation, and build analyzation. This software helps reduce time to final part, according to Cullen.
For filament, 3rd Dimension worked with 3D Systems’ LaserForm 316L (A), a stainless steel 316 powder material that exhibits great resistance from rust and corrosion. Not only is it competitively priced, but it also met the specifications required by KALLISTA. According to McKeone, the greatest challenge of the entire project was ensuring that the process met KALLISTA’s elevated design and quality expectations. Typical products from KOLLISTA incorporate materials such as semi-precious stones, hand-cut crystal, and fine marble.
“KALLISTA is a premier brand with very high aesthetic requirements. To this end we take great care to machine every visible surface as well as go through another finishing process prior to shipping the final parts,” explains Markley.
KALLISTA premiered the Grid sink faucet at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in January 2018. The luxury faucet is considered the first of its kind and available for purchase through KALLISTA.
McKeone attests that his design would not have been possible without 3D printing. “Through 3D printing, KALLISTA was able to develop the sink faucet’s open form and discreet interior channels that allow the water to easily flow through the base. We were able to produce a unique product that couldn’t have been achieved through traditional manufacturing processes,” he explains.
Markley agrees, sharing that the Grid sink faucet is a great example of additive and subtractive technologies coming together to produce an amazing end product.
“With additive manufacturing, designers have tremendous freedom of design—able to produce geometries not possible through traditional manufacturing processes,” adds Cullen.
With the production capabilities of the 3D Systems ProX DMP 320, 3rd Dimension is poised to create high quantities of the KALLISTA Grid sink faucet. All of the benefits of additive manufacturing join together to offer a unique design from a notable kitchen and bath manufacturer.
Oct2018, Industrial Print Magazine