[This article was written by Lizzie Weakley.]
Parts and materials are a critical element of every industrial business, but sometimes the specific item you need can be difficult to find. Many aged and custom-made pieces of equipment require special parts and materials for their operation, and less common manufacturing processes also necessitate the need for specialty items. If you’re in search of unique components for your business, here are four ways to ensure quality while obtaining the pieces you need.
Make a Copy with 3-D Printing
3-D printing is a revolutionary process that can make a copy of nearly any object. If you have at least one of the item you need, consider using a 3-D printer to create as many additional pieces as you want. 3-D printed copies can be made of any material, so you can supply a wood or metal component and make a copy of it in silicone or plastic. The downside of 3-D printing is that your copy will only be as good as the original you supply.
Use Custom Manufacturing
Another effective way to source custom parts is to have them specially manufactured. Many manufacturers specialize in machining custom or out-of-production parts. You may be able to find the industrial washers or fasteners you need in their catalogue or bring the part you want recreated and let them work their magic. Many custom manufacturers can also develop a solution if you bring in your machinery and explain what you need.
Buy Used Parts
The used market is an excellent source of parts for outdated machinery. There’s no reason to replace old equipment that still runs great just because parts and materials for it are no longer made. Make use of online listings to locate even the most unusual parts. You can also find great deals on used parts at auctions and going-out-of-business sales.
Contact Your Equipment Manufacturer
If you can’t find the part you need and a custom solution isn’t workable, try contacting the manufacturer of your equipment. Original manufacturers often keep old parts in stock or offer new replacement parts for their products. You may even get your part replaced for free or a reduced cost if your machine is still under warranty.
Although there are many avenues for purchasing quality specialty parts for your business, the expense of replacing hard-to-find parts can add up quickly. Evaluate whether updating your equipment or changing your production process to utilize cheaper, widely available parts would save you money in the long term.
Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and walks in the park with her three-year-old husky, Snowball.