Woodward Inc. is expanding its aerospace manufacturing capabilities with a newly remodeled building in Zeeland that will accommodate an innovative manufacturing approach: additive manufacturing.
Additive manufacturing is another name for 3D printing, where, instead of removing material to create a part using a mill or lathe, the material is added and built up to create the shape of the part.
Woodward is also an example of a company using Industry 4.0, or the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” the next phase of manufacturing improvement.
“Innovative companies that deploy Industry 4.0 technologies in their processes are growing in West Michigan, and Woodward is a great example of this,” says Jennifer Owens, Lakeshore Advantage President. “Woodward is a world-class employer, investing in the region’s innovation culture and economic future. We are proud to support their growth here.”
Woodward works primarily in laser powder bed fusion, where a laser mounted above the build plate fires down and melts very fine metal powder, building material up layer by layer. Ultimately, the additive manufacturing process creates metal parts that can withstand rigorous conditions, such as high temperature and high altitude, the same as machined or cast products.
The additive manufacturing process has been in development at the Zeeland location since 2012. Woodward started with one machine in a small space, experimenting with different materials and designs to test the machine’s capabilities to 3D print complex structures. These first trials were showcased for Woodward’s customers.
As it became apparent the demand for additive manufactured products would grow, Woodward purchased a previously leased space totaling more than 26,000 square feet that was being used for new product introduction and warehousing. The team at Woodward is working to clear the space and industrialize 15,000 square feet that will be dedicated to additive manufacturing.
A global company based in Fort Collins, Colorado, Woodward is an independent designer, manufacturer, and service provider of control system solutions and components for the aerospace and industrial markets. The company's innovative fluid, combustion, electrical, and motion control systems help customers offer cleaner, more reliable, and more efficient equipment.
Expanded workforce foreseen
The additive manufacturing process technology is expected to grow the company’s workforce in Zeeland.
“Additive manufacturing will create new employment opportunities at our site,” says Dave Barnes, Woodward Human Resources Manager in Zeeland. “The addition of this process and facility will strengthen our position with our customers and pave the way for additional job growth throughout our value streams.”
Woodward is engaged in additive manufacturing, assembly, machining, brazing, welding, and testing in the manufacturing processes for fuel nozzles and afterburners. The Zeeland location currently has a 280-person workforce.
“It’s our team of highly collaborative and innovative individuals that make Woodward a success and allow us to bring these new processes to fruition — all while being guided by our core values,” Barnes says.
Woodward has worked in partnership with the Lakeshore Advantage economic development agency for five years and maintained a positive relationship with the city of Zeeland. Leveraging these relationships, Woodward applied for a tax abatement for industrial development.
“Woodward is pleased to continue its growth in West Michigan through the purchase and industrialization of the fourth building on our campus and through the introduction of this very innovative manufacturing process,” says Erik Pederson, Woodward Vice President and General Manager in Zeeland. “We greatly appreciate the support we received from Lakeshore Advantage and the city of Zeeland in helping to make this a reality.”
The new additive manufacturing process is expected to be fully operational and shipping production parts to customers by January.
“We appreciate Woodward’s presence here in our community and are pleased to provide support for their expansion and investment in their facility," says Zeeland Mayor Kevin Klynstra.
Lakeshore Advantage receives $92K grant to usher in Industry 4.0 readiness