When Ampcontrol Burn Brite set about developing a polymer moulding component for a new safety lighting product for underground coal mines, it decided to explore the potential of 3D printing, with support from AMTIL’s Additive Manufacturing Hub (AM Hub).

Ampcontrol Burn Brite Pty Ltd (Burn Brite) is a member company of Ampcontrol Pty Ltd. Based in Ringwood in Melbourne’s east, Burn Brite is a designer and integrated manufacturer of lighting and power supply systems. It supplies to the underground coal, tunneling and infrastructure markets throughout Australia and South-East Asia. Employing 40 people, Burn Brite has been in operation for 63 years.

Burn Brite’s operation is a classic manufacturing operation. From raw materials such as polymers, metal sheeting and electronic components, Burn Brite processes, fabricates and assembles to detailed in-house designs that require strict Group 1 and 2 certification compliance. Most of these products are safety-critical in their application.

Burn Brite is essentially an independent operation, providing sales, R&D and manufacturing functions. As Burn Brite’s products have been designed in-house, the role of R&D is critical to the ongoing success of the business.

The challenge

Burn Bite planned to design and develop new integrated safety lighting for underground coal mines. Its new flagship luminaire product would be called the ISLEDi. This would be an extensive change to its existing ISLED product with new leading-edge electronics embedded. These product developments are detailed and onerous, including arduous laboratory testing of properties, material compatibility and safety mechanisms.

The body of the luminaire was to be made from a polymer moulding requiring detailed design, prototypes and intricate detail in injection moulding tooling. The estimated timeline for project completion was significant, and the risk of future realised injection moulding issues arising was high.

The solution

In discussion with industry contacts, it was recommended that additive manufacturing (AM) could assist for fast prototype development, enable fast iterative design, and therefore lower decision risk in injection mould tooling investment. Burn Brite sought additive manufacturing support from the Additive Manufacturing Hub (AM Hub) via the Build It Better (BIB) voucher program and was very appreciative to be accepted.

Burn Brite engaged a registered service provider, Cobalt Design, to assist in CAD aspects related to additive manufacturing and to engage with additive manufacturing companies best suited to the form and close material property correlation requirements of Burn Brite’s prototype design.

How the Additive Manufacturing Hub helped

Burn Brite knew of additive manufacturing through media and exhibitions, but had no direct knowledge or experience of it in terms of design considerations, compatible polymers and so on. With funding assistance from the BIB program, engagement and detailed discussions with Cobalt were undertaken. This led to Burn Brite modifying certain aspects of its designs and issuing designs closely suited to additive processes.

Without the opportunity of the BIB program, Burn Brite would not have pursued an additive manufacturing path. The BIB program enabled engagement with Cobalt, design suitability for AM, fast processing of prototype parts and samples, and shortened lead times to critical decisions about product tooling.

The outcome

Cobalt’s creative design and form iterations were completed within weeks. The creation of fast prototypes then occurred within days. Burn Brite would historically take several months to iterate design between mould flow simulation to rapid prototypes and so on. The additive manufacturing path has saved many weeks of iteration to get to a high confidence level on final body form and tooling design.

All mechanical aspects of Burn Brite’s new ISLEDi are now complete. Critical decisions regarding tooling and investment were made through a series of trials and formal reviews, subsequent to the receipt of samples.

The target market for this product is the underground coal longwall mining sector. Discussions regarding the flexibility and increased visual awareness and status of mine condition that this product will enable have been very positive to date.

The product design and final assembly are currently undergoing certification review. Burn Brite is confident that the product design in its current form will be successful in this certification. The product is on track for a market release in July 2020.

Burn Brite will now implement an additive manufacturing step in its design process going forward. The benefits have clearly been a reduced time to investment decisions, and therefore to final product realisation. Burn Brite remains watchful of the economic improvements in additive manufacturing and looks forward to the time when it will invest in additive manufacturing machinery and make the transition from injection moulding.

The AM Hub is an initiative delivered by AMTIL in partnership with the Victorian State Government to provide an industry-driven collaborative network of technology users, suppliers and supporters that will promote the adoption of additive manufacturing technology. For more information, please contact John Croft, AM Hub Manager, on 03 9800 3666 or email amhub@amtil.com.au.