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PACE INDUSTRIES PARTNERS WITH 3M TO DEVELOP UNIQUE DIE CAST COMPONENTS FOR 3M’S NEW 25 YEAR LED LIGHT BULBS

When 3M began the design and development of their new 25 year LED light bulb, there were a number of aluminum components in the design that, in large volumes, would ultimately be too costly to allow for secondary machining and would require net shape high-pressure aluminum die casting.

Custom die-caster Pace Industries was selected by 3M to be a part of the design team that would develop the prototype and production die-cast tooling for the unique LED light bulb. Pace Industries’ St. Paul Division had worked with 3M in the past as a supplier for a number of aluminum die-cast components used in 3M’s glue guns and other products. The St. Paul Division is located near where 3M was developing the prototype light bulb designs, which allowed a good close-working relationship for the project engineers and the die designers to assist in the prototype and development process.

Fig. 1 3M LED ligt bulb with the four die cast parts

Eric Waa, Pace’s St. Paul Division chief die casting engineer, says, “It’s been about an 18 month process to ultimately finalize the design of the production parts that we will soon deliver. A number of iterations of the tooling evolved during the die-casting development and design-for-manufacture process. Because some of these components are small thin-walled die-castings, the tooling presented some interesting challenges. There are four different components including a heat sink core, the heat sink top and bottom and a light ring,” Fig. 1. The die castings are an aluminum A380 alloy material.

Waa points out, “The supplier/customer relationship during this project has been smooth and effective. There have never been any issues related to the investment that was required for prototype tooling or the final production tooling. The tooling monies were planned for, and made available for each phase of the development process, as we worked each time to maximize and achieve reduced manufacturing costs.  That’s not always the case with every customer.”

Chuck DeVore, the program engineer from 3M’s Design & Engineering Solutions division that assisted in the development of the LED light bulb, points out, “We brought Pace Industries into the design process and on to the design team early so we could take advantage of their die-cast tooling knowledge and provide the creative solutions and available options that both the prototype tooling and the production tooling would require. We were well aware that there would be a number of design changes along the way, but we wanted to minimize as best we could the design-to-manufacture time frame.”

Waa explains, “To be as cost-conscience as possible during the prototype process, we designed our tooling with inserts so we could maximize the use of re-useable components and accommodate the next generation of size configurations, Fig. 2.  We were well aware that part geometry was going to change, but we wanted to save time in what we had to re-build. The initial prototype part dies were a 2-cavity family die design so we could accommodate the four individual part numbers, two in each mold, Fig. 3. As production ramps up, we will move to four-cavity molds where we can make eight parts with each shot. We have been given a target market price for these parts and are confident we will be on that number.”

“The required dimensional tolerances on these parts are fairly typical for their size, keeping in mind that some parts will ultimately be painted for reflectivity,” Waa adds. “However the wall thickness requirement is 0.070 to 0.080-in., and that’s pretty thin.”

Waa concludes, “We’ve currently provided 75,000 sets of die castings for 3M’s initial test marketing phase and are working with 3M to coordinate the tooling schedules with their production schedules for each light bulb design and size.”

The 3M LED Advanced Light is a 13 watt (60 watt incandescent equivalent) omnidirectional light bulb that applies solid-state lighting technology to achieve 25 years of use. The lamp produces 800 lm and is being sold in a 3000K CCT soft white version and a 4000K cool-white version. The light bulb has a very unique design that places the driver in a spacious globe and not in the neck of the lamp. This allows air to flow into the lamp just above the base and exit through slots in the upper half of the globe cooling both the LEDs and the driver. The LEDs are mounted facing upwards around the circumference of the neck of the lamp. There are 9 LEDs for the cool-white version and 10 LEDS for the warm-white version. 3M has designed the light guide that forms the outer structure of the lamp and uses total internal reflection technology to distribute light around the globe. The light-extraction elements are created with white paint on the inside of the light guide causing beams to reflect outside the lamp in an omnidirectional fashion. The super efficient 3M light bulbs cost $25 each.

Pace Industries was founded in 1970 as an integrated company that provides quality die casting, manufacturing and engineering solutions worldwide. Pace is North America’s largest custom aluminum die caster, as well as a provider of comprehensive die casting services in magnesium and zinc. The company has 10 separate divisions, 15 manufacturing facilities, and more than 2,500 associates across the US and Mexico.

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