In any industry, original parts must one day be replaced. But that doesn’t need to happen at the expense of completely changing an authentic process. William Morrow, President of Langhorne Carpet Company (LCC), faced this dilemma as he sought replacement for the core of his carpet-manufacturing process: the Jacquard cylinder.
A Storied History
LCC, located in Penndel, PA, has come a long way since it was first established in 1930. With looms originally purchased from Henry Ford (who unsuccessfully attempted to work the looms to produce carpets for his own vehicles), the carpet company has met the floor-covering demands of catalogue giants, famous figures, and custom-seeking individuals alike. Their dedication to superior craftsmanship and use of high-quality materials has launched them to national prominence, with LCC carpets now found in historical halls, the Henry Ford Estate, historic houses of worship, and more.
Worn Down, But Not Out
But historic looms were not made to run on the same parts forever. After over 80 years in use, one of LCC’s Jacquard cylinders was beginning to show wear. “Our looms will run forever, but like any classic, they eventually require replacement parts,” Morrow said.
Originally made of extremely rare and environmentally sensitive African hardwood, the Jacquard cylinder is integral to the carpet-weaving process; decks of connected Jacquard punch cards, which determine the intricate designs and patterns that Langhorne is known for, feed onto the cylinders and help to produce the finished carpets.
Because of the rare nature of the original part, Langhorne’s initial options for replacing this special piece were limited. They would need to custom order a new part, or try to find a refurbished part, and either option would have been prohibitively expensive and time consuming, which was not ideal for a continuously-operating mill.
The Modern Solution
Mill Supervisor Jerry Bell, who has been with LCC for 37 years, was the first to suggest 3D printing as an alternative solution. “You couldn’t get the wood anymore…and we can’t use something like pine, because it’s too soft,” Bell said. Bell discussed the project with some contacts, who suggested 3D printing and put him in contact with ProtoCAM’s Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Bob Holbrook. Collaboration began immediately as ProtoCAM sought to not only recreate the part with additive manufacturing, but to actually improve upon the original design.
ProtoCAM took the design and went beyond reverse-engineering the part by making each panel of the cylinder removable and easily replaceable, and adding vents in place of the previously drilled holes. Holbrook and ProtoCAM’s Vice President of Additive Manufacturing, Ed Graham, visited the mill to see the loom in action in order to better understand the modifications that would need to be applied to the printed part, while Bell also visited ProtoCAM’s facility to see the process for printing the part.
The finished cylinder (printed using HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing technology) is significantly lighter than the original, more efficient, and is easily replaceable and replicated. The same design can be used within the other looms throughout the facility as they eventually break down, at which point any minor modifications will be a breeze to integrate. The new cylinder is currently installed at LCC, nestled within a mélange of older metal and wooden parts that are original to the decades-old loom: a seamless melding of old-world craftsmanship with new-world technology.
An Award-Winning Application
With modifications complete and an excellent experience recreating this legacy part, ProtoCAM submitted this innovative project in the “advanced concepts” category of the Technical Competition at the 2018 Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG) Conference, an annual conference which brings together engineers, designers, managers, and educators from around the world to share expertise, best practices, challenges, and application developments in additive manufacturing. The “advanced concepts” category of the Technical Competition recognizes individuals and their companies for exemplary work with additive manufacturing technologies.
Though faced with competition from several giants in the industry, including BMW and Adidas, ProtoCAM walked away with first place. It was an inspiring win for ProtoCAM and Langhorne Carpet Company, and a huge accomplishment for the future of additive manufacturing as a means to keep legacy processes like Langhorne’s alive and continuing to produce exceptional products.
To learn more about Langhorne and its carpet-making processes, visit https://www.langhornecarpets.com/.
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