In June, the Baltimore Hardware Design Engineers group I organize went on a tour of Danko Arlington in NW Baltimore with John Danko, President of the company. They are an aluminum foundry making cast parts primarily for the defense industry so prevalent in our region (and the reason photos were not allowed). Heavy manufacturing has largely left the city of Baltimore, but they have remained and flourished.
Danko Arlington has an amazing wood shop where they’ve created patterns since early in the 20th Century. Over the years, it’s become harder and harder to find skilled pattern-makers to fill those positions as employees retire – it’s just not a skill that’s as common as it once was.
In light of that shortage, they’ve replaced the output of the now-empty wood shop with a mechanical engineer and a 3D printer. Parts are designed and fabricated to precise specifications and finished to achieve the right texture. The 3D printed parts are used to form the pattern for sand molds before they are filled with the molten metal. The patterns are durable and used over again to create new sand molds which are broken apart after firing and fully recycled on-site. And, size is not an issue; I saw finished parts as large as six feet in diameter.
What struck me most about the tour was the way they’ve been able to integrate new technology into an age-old manufacturing process. 3D printing revolutionized product design over the last 15 years through the capability of fast and accurate prototyping but it is replaced by more traditional techniques for production. However, Danko Arlington is using 3D printing to make high-quality production parts on a daily basis. To find out more, I highly recommend a tour for yourself.