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10th Jan 2017

3D printing technology looks likely to revolutionise manufacturing and move industries into a new age of efficiency.

A significant reduction in prices for 3D printers and materials has opened up the technology to many smaller businesses, when once only large corporations could afford the technology. Wohlers Report in 2014 predicted a rise from $3.07 billion in revenue from 2013 to $12.8 billion in 2018 (and according to their 2016 report hit over $5 billion in 2015).

A cost saving initiative

Initially touted for prototyping and design projects, advancements in technology are now allowing structurally secure items to be created by additive manufacturing -permitting companies to rely on 3D printing for much more than design and with the advantage of dramatic cost savings.

Paul Doe, chief designer at motorsport designers Prodrive, stated whilst speaking to Computer, “We’re able to build shapes that you can’t mould cast or forge – pieces you can’t make in any other way but through additive manufacturing. This allows us to avoid fixed costs and it means we don’t have to carry stock because we can manufacture parts on demand.” One car project in particular saw a cost saving of £80,000 thanks to 3D printing.

More specialised industries, above all, have benefitted from faster production. Where one off complicated parts may have previously been on lead times of weeks, or even months, they can now be produced in-house within a matter of hours.

Accuride’s use of 3D printing for product design

For Accuride’s design engineers 3D printing has made a huge difference to their approach to product development. The relatively low cost of getting prototype parts manufactured has allowed them to experiment more and test their ideas before settling on a final design. Arguably this has a positive effect on the end product and, of course, for the customer who benefits from the best possible solution.

Opening opportunities with new materials

New filaments are increasing the opportunities for additive manufacturing, with recent developments allowing even lower range 3D printers to produce metal models.

Metallic filaments containing plastic provide exciting capabilities to smaller companies. Brass and copper versions are readily available with the future possibility to produce commercially available nickel, ceramic and even glass models from 3D printing.

Recently 3M filed a patent for a new type of 3D printing technology that could lead to the manufacturing of fluorocarbon-based plastics, also known as fluoropolymers, which are used in everything from aerospace and defence applications to non-stick cooking surfaces.

The future of manufacturing

Low volume manufacturing has already embraced additive manufacturing, with it yet to break the seriously high volumes and regular manufacturing markets. Where companies are reaping the rewards is in the building of subassemblies, tools or jigs to reduce costs and long lead times.

However, some cutting edge firms are embracing 3D printing and new technology, with construction firms using additive manufacturing to produce modular construction components and even drones for site inspection and monitoring. Size had previously been a limiting factor, but now Stratasys has unveiled a machine that prints on a vertical plane enabling practically unlimited part size in the build direction, the company claims.

Worldwide, companies and factories are pushing the additive manufacturing industry to the next level. Sheffield University’s Factory 2050 was built with the key objective of developing high value manufacturing production over short run cycles with limited downtime.

2050 and similar factories are also benefitting from new standards supporting and allowing growth within the industry; most recently ASTM International describing chemical and mechanical requirements for 3D printing of stainless steel alloys.

It is interesting to note how major OEMs, especially those in the automotive market, are taking the lead in experimenting and investing in this technology.

3D printing start-up Carbon has brought in GE, BMW and Nikon as strategic investors and BMW has already produced some 10,000 parts with Carbon’s machines so far, mainly for its Minis in Germany.
Peugeot has announced a partnership with Divergent 3D, a U.S. company that last year showed off a supercar built of 3D printed structural components. The French car maker said it would start by using Divergent’s technology to make prototypes and then later explore on how to extend the same into mainstream production.

Honda has used a 3D printer to manufacture the outer panels for its ‘MC-Β’ compact electric vehicle (EV) and Ford has said that one of the immediate applications it is exploring is tooling.

With forward-thinkers leading an industry where the sky is the limit, does additive manufacturing have the ability to replace manufacturing as we know it? At the moment this seems improbable due to the length of time each part takes to print. But with the speed of advancements in this technology we can’t discount its potential impact.

Additional material from Nikkei Technolog, EPPM, Financial Times

Photo credit:<a href=''>Designed by Freepik</a>

Sue Witkowski

The importance of retail store design in an e-commerce world

Author: Sue Witkowski, Marketing services manager

5th Dec 2016

Tablets are becoming more powerful, TVs are becoming more advanced and we are able to access a myriad of applications straight from our mobile phone.

In a world where the easiest way to communicate with a target market is through a smart device and everything can be seen in high definition from the comfort of our own home, good retail store design is now more important than ever.

The number of consumers heading to e-commerce sites to buy their products has risen significantly over the past few years. This has put additional strain on the high street stores who are struggling to encourage their customers through the door to buy.

What is involved?

How a shop’s front window and interior are designed have the power to engage and encourage consumers in a way which smart devices cannot - with a personal connection and a positive shopping experience. It’s no longer just about simply selling the products; design is there to intrigue and inform.

Covering everything from advertising to layout, lighting and fittings, retail design can take many forms, each an important consideration to help engage with consumers and ultimately, getting them to the point of buying the product.

Why is it important?

Retail design acts as an extended marketing opportunity for a business. The design is not just there to encourage consumers to purchase their goods; it is an opportunity to sell the brand and to give the consumer an experience that will match their aspirations

On average it takes around 8 seconds to walk past a store front, giving just 4 seconds to capture a consumer’s attention and to get them into the front door. Relevance is a key factor to effective retail design. The design must speak to the consumer – it must match the buyer’s desires. If the design succeeds then the brand has the opportunity to tell its story and deliver a clear and coherent message.

According to a Harris Interactive survey, 86% of adults would pay more for a better customer experience. But customer service should be more than just a warm welcome through the front door. Add in the emotive experience that comes with well-designed retail spaces and you start to develop beneficial relationships with the customer.

And it’s not just about consumer engagement - staff retention rates and productivity at work have been proven to increase as a result of good retail design.

Shops also play a key part in our social infra-structure. Our once vibrant high streets allowed social interaction, which is lost as high streets become quieter and online purchases increase.

Executive creative director of the Americas at Fitch, Christian Davies, said: ‘the world of experiential design has never faced more of a challenge that it does today, while simultaneously never finding itself presented with a greater opportunity.’

Who stands out with creative and innovative retail design?

IKEA is a unique prospect in the way they design their retail space. Attracting users with their affordable household furniture and accessories, their store is laid out like a maze. Thanks to this, customers spend a large amount of time within the store and are more likely to impulse buy. People don’t want to go back for products in this one-stop shopping environment and this encourages customers to buy with less deliberation than normal.

This model saw IKEA return a 5.5% increase in net profits over 2014, with the Swedish retailer pulling in worldwide profits of £2.5 billion during 2015.

For another great example of relevant design look at the Apple stores. The simplicity of design, incorporating clean lines, neutral colours and open spaces reflect the look and aspiration of their products. Environmental factors are considered an important part of the design process, drawing in the surroundings to create a common message through their brand.

With an ever-growing online retail market limiting what was once a vibrant and busy high street, it is now more important than ever for retailers to develop strong and inspiring design to encourage consumers through their doors to buy.

Helle Kinning

Interactive and connected kitchen appliances- changing the way we live?

Author: Helle Kinning, Marketing and distribution support specialist

3rd Nov 2016

As kitchen technology advances and revolutionary products are being introduced to our homes the way modern families cook is adapting at a rapid pace.

These products have the capability to talk to each other and they can interact with our own personal smart technology - but is it having negative effects on the way we prepare and eat food in our homes?

What’s changed?

There has been a large rise in smart kitchen technology over the past three years. A recent innovative entry for consumers was Samsung’s Family Hub Refrigerator, which combines a WiFi enabled touch screen with integrated cameras, enabling groceries to be monitored and ordered whether in the home or remotely through a smart device.

Ovens, grills and frying pans have also been made intelligent. These appliances can decide when food is cooked based on weight and density. Couple this with Bluetooth enabled cutlery that helps you lose weight by alerting you if you are eating too quickly, machines that can determine the drink it will produce based on your fingerprint and you are introduced to the future of the culinary world.

Are they beneficial?

This new era of connected kitchens gives control over appliances from smart devices, whether you are in your home, at work or the supermarket. These appliances are able to determine when something it cooked and even clean themselves, taking the hard work away for a generation for whom time is becoming precious.

The average time spent in kitchens has been halved over the last thirty years and advancing technology is enabling this time to decrease even further. The interaction between devices has progressed so far that your Fitbit can activate your coffee maker as soon as it registers that you are awake. Our kitchens are now able to integrate seamlessly with our personal technology making cooking an easy experience for everyone.

With minimal human interaction comes minimal effort. Is our increasing reliance on this technology a good thing? We no longer have the need to think about how our meals are cooked; the need to go out shopping has become redundant and our appliances now give us direction as opposed to us being in control. The question is, how much of this control are we willing to leave in the hands of our appliances?

Smart Ovens - what are they?

Many top-end manufacturers such as Electrolux, Bosch and Whirlpool are now offering pyrolytic and steam oven solutions to make cooking and maintaining ovens an easy experience.

Pyrolysis technology takes away the often laborious process of cleaning an oven and steam ovens can offer healthier cooking options delivering the perfect meal, every time.

Pyrolytic ovens clean themselves by removing the oxygen from within the oven and heating the inside up to 500°C. At this temperature the grease within the oven simply burns off and is reduced to a pile of ash in the bottom, which can be simply wiped away with a damp cloth. Integrated self-locking doors ensure the oven is safe when in use and a cleaning cycle can be completed in as little as 90 minutes.

Steaming uses hot vaporised water to raise food temperature. By eliminating the use of oils the amount of fat is significantly reduced, offering much healthier cooking options. Integrated smart technology lets you know when your chicken is perfectly cooked, ensures food can never be burnt and that it is always cooked to perfection.

Advances in technology will continue to change the way we operate within our homes. We are now able to communicate with our appliances with ease through the use of smart phones, removing the stress and hassle that can accompany cooking.

But not everyone sees cooking as drudgery. For the keen cook perhaps the creative process and attention to detail is important, and no manner of smart technology will impress them.

Although, for those where time is limited, this offers a solution to keep home cooked meals central to busy lifestyles.

It will be interesting to see how far technology in the kitchen can go and whether or not it will be totally embraced by the consumer.

Sue Witkowski

More movies please – the use of product animation online

Author: Sue Witkowski, Marketing services manager

3rd Oct 2016

We have noticed that more and more people prefer to watch a movie of how our products work.

Understanding some of the technical elements and functions of telescopic and linear slides becomes so much easier when they are illustrated and animated.

We are increasingly using animation to get inside the slide operation to help our customers choose the correct telescopic or linear slide for their application.

The videos are also used to train our distributors and, in turn, to be used by them on their own websites to assist their customers.

Accuride International YouTube Channel

The Accuride YouTube channel was established several years ago and we started the project by filming our own homemade ‘how to’ videos. Gradually we are replacing these with more sophisticated videos using 3D animation.

Animation has been the chosen medium since this format can do more than just show the product. We have been able to use our 3D CAD product drawings (available through the website) as a basis for movies that allow the viewer to really understand the products’ movement and features.

Why we’re using animation

For example, trying to explain in words how to separate a slide using a disconnect lever and then to re-assemble the slide correctly is almost impossible. Even line drawings and photographs are not clear enough to help. Being able to move the slide around on screen and show the moving parts has explained the disconnect feature and stopped the reconnection issues that some customers were experiencing.

Some of the movies show the slides in typical applications. This helps to illustrate the endless possibilities of how a telescopic or linear slide can be used.

Accuride is now fully committed to this medium and we expect to produce many more movies over the coming years. Subscribe here to keep up to date as new videos are added to the channel.

Please make your suggestions for new videos by emailing us

Sue Witkowski

Driverless cars: impact on design and driver

Author: Sue Witkowski, Marketing services manager

18th Jul 2016

No longer a futuristic luxury, driverless cars are now very much a thing of the present. With companies such as Mercedes, Bentley and Tesla all introducing their concepts to the public, automotive design is changing at a rapid pace.

A Business Solution

It isn’t just manufacturers who are getting involved with autonomous vehicles; companies such as Google and Uber are utilising this emerging technology to increase their business offering.

An issue Uber is currently facing is the lack of drivers to keep up with demand. Autonomous technology not only combats this, it also opens up the opportunity to increase the efficiency of their business.

The Idea

BMW’s 100th Birthday celebration was the chosen platform to introduce their new research vehicle, Vision 100. This works to ‘maintain an emotional connection between the machine and its driver in a world where self-driving cars are expected to be the norm.’

With 48% of people saying they would not purchase a car they liked if the technology was too hard to use, it is important to maintain this relationship between driver and vehicle.

Volvo’s CEO also released a statement with their introduction of Concept 26 accepting ‘full liability whenever one of our cars is in autonomous mode’ meaning there is a realisation that with this generation of cars comes the need to prioritise safety and reliability.

Aspects of Design

Integrated design brings these concepts to life - combining the best of biomimicry with classic construction in one harmonious design. 4D printing is incorporated to add a responsive element to design, enabling adaptive responsive behaviour to bring the structure to life. Combine this with geometric symmetry, innovative materials and colour pallets that are inspired-by-nature, and you have the next generation of seamless automotive design.

LED lighting, which adds a three dimensional depth to aspects of the design, plus rotating and reclining chairs for both passenger and driver all bring an enhanced level of travelling experience. All passengers, including the ‘driver’ can relax comfortably as they head to their destination. As drivers, we will have access to more spare time while in the car.

Many of these concepts operate using a range of ‘modes’ to determine which elements of the car can operate at any given time. Whether introducing screens to watch films or the news or allowing the driver’s seat to recline horizontally to get comfortable, this breed of intelligent car takes away the stress that can go with driving.

Opening Opportunities

Self-driving cars have the ability to take 80% of cars off of the road, according to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology report, improving traffic conditions through cities and built up areas. This technology also has the advantage of offering independence for those with visual impairments or disabilities, where driving hasn’t been an option before. So potentially these autonomous vehicles will not only reduce traffic and significantly reduce accident rates, but also create the opportunity for independence.

Moving Forward

This technology is adapting quickly. It is anticipated that the fully autonomous car, where passengers can go from A – B without human interaction, will start to be seen on our streets from 2019.

But before these can be introduced for consumer use, there are still a few kinks which need to be worked out. Night driving and trickier road conditions such as rain, fog and ice mean there is still a long road ahead before this technology will be easily accessible on the automotive market.

Public trial for driverless cars beginning in Milton Keynes. 11 October 2016


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