Energy Chain Bracket
Georgia, United States
Onyx, Continuous Carbon Fiber
Alcon is the largest eye care device company in the world, with over 70+ years of experience helping people see perfectly. With offices in over 70 countries and patients in 140, they've got a reputation for responsible business practices and high-quality products. Upholding that reputation requires stringent quality control measures on every product sold.
Contact lenses face particularly stringent quality requirements, set both internally and by the eyecare industry. Every lens goes through various inspections before it goes out the door. Automation has streamlined the process, removing both manual labor and human error — but automation brings its own problems. When Alcon upgrades the line, they need custom bracketry in order to retrofit new equipment to the existing equipment. Sometimes, those solutions are treated as an afterthought. Other times, short-term solutions are "cardboard-engineered", which leads to higher costs and more time spent on preventive maintenance (PM) to avoid line downtime. Using the Markforged platform, Alcon swiftly implemented solutions in less than 24 hours, all while using engineering-grade components. This eliminated two two-hour PM cycles a month on a critical inspection line, and did it all at a fraction of the cost and turnaround time of a conventionally manufactured solution.
For example, the energy chain bracket routes the cables on one of Alcon's Vision Systems, used for in-process inspection. Alcon scheduled preventive maintenance to replace a cable that positions the sensor. The problems stemmed from the 50mm bend radius of the energy chain — the wrong radius, left over from the use of incorrect specifications during an upgrade. Routinely replacing the cables cost money, labor, and downtime on a capital asset.
By implementing the custom-engineered solution, Alcon increased profit margins by increasing uptime and reducing the inventory required for replacements. A downstream effect was decreased operational cost from four labor hours per month required to service the Vision System. Machining a correct bracket cost as much as $250 for a one-off, and took 4-6 weeks to arrive — and that's if a job shop will take a one-off order at all. The 3D printed version of the bracket, meanwhile, cost $40 and was in the team's hands just 24 hours after finalizing the design. Those savings are on top of the downtime and labor expenses for each PM cycle.