Designing working prototypes: unlocking additive manufacturing technologies at brush switchgear

Designing working prototypes: unlocking additive manufacturing technologies at brush switchgear

The challenge 

BRUSH is a leader in switchgear technology. Committed to innovation, its in-house team of engineers, continually undertake the research and development of an impressive range of power solutions. 

With a requirement to quickly develop, prototype, and test new designs, the team recognised the need to add a 3D printer to their impressive suite of design technology.  

Three key goals were identified which any 3D printer required must meet 



With its capacity for rapid prototyping, the CreatBot D600 Pro 3D printer was chosen. Offering phenomenal time-saving benefits when compared to the alternative of machining parts, which can take up to two months and incur significant costs, the D600 PRO allows for prototypes to be quickly produced, assessed, adapted and improved. It also allows for the production of parts on demand, avoiding the need to bulk order spares which would need to be held in stock.  

Along with the anticipated benefits of lowering costs, reducing lead times and allowing for agility within product development, the printer delivers other benefits too.  

Routine manufacturing tasks and processes often require custom tools, and with only a few required at any time, the costs for ordering could be prohibitive. With the D600 PRO bespoke tools are easily produced and ergonomically designed to meet the exact needs of the manufacturing team.   

01 Application: Research and development 

Designed for the rail network, PowerBond™ is an innovative solution which combines the functionality of a line circuit breaker with that of a bonding switch. It incorporates a high-speed, direct current circuit breaker, featuring the award-winning magnetic actuator, which carries out the making and breaking of all load and fault currents. An ‘off-load’ motorised two-position disconnector selects the circuit. 

With the disconnector in the positive position and the NDC circuit breaker closed, the positive busbar is connected to the track feeder cable, thereby functioning as a standard feeder circuit breaker

The disconnector mechanism must be reliable and precise throughout the product’s lifecycle. 

To increase the reliability of the disconnector mechanism and improve the maintenance ability of the controlling redundant microswitch set operation, the team investigated the potential mechanical stress distribution on the operation-involved parts. To validate the concept’s fit and functionality, two sets of parts were printed overnight, which allowed for next-day testing

The additive manufacturing (AM) technique favoured this solution as it was a one-off, bespoke prototype. The microswitch was tested in the disconnector mechanism, and the results showed that the controlling switches can now be easily installed thanks to a more reliable supporting structure.  



02 Application: Engineering 

Global factors continue to make importing parts from overseas difficult, with orders often experiencing significant delays

To prevent these delays impacting customers, the engineering team utilised additive manufacturing technology to manufacture installation equipment based on existing technical drawings.  

Using Solidworks and the Creatbot D600 Pro, a middle-out design technique was adopted to create a solution with known dimensions of the support bracket and location of surrounding enclosure features incorporated in the design. 

The prototype was printed overnight using PA-CF. The 3D printed part was directly installed into the product and produced at a fraction of the original part cost. 

The prototype was printed overnight using PA-CF. The 3D printed part was directly installed into the product and produced at a fraction of the original part cost. 


03 Application: Manufacturing 

PowerBond™ integrates the feeder circuit breaker and remote bonding functions into one standard panel footprint. This offers significant advantages in space-saving, civil engineering, cabling and operational consistency and safety.  However, these additional features increase the complexity of the design when compared to other DC products.  

Panel assembly requires guidance tools and jigs to ease the positioning of heavy copper components. With access to 3D printing, engineers could easily take the position of the conductive bars and design a required supporting system. The model was imported into the slicing software, and with no additional settings, the G-code was remotely sent to the printer within just a few minutes. 

Previously, two people were required to fit the hanging elements without the positioning tool. However, with the 3D printed tool, made from 120g of impact-PLA with an internal honeycomb structure able to support 15kg copper, the task could be completed by just one person. 

04 Application: Health & safety

As in many manufacturing workshops, various aerosol sprays are used. While using spray cans, the accelerating aerosol gives freezing burst fatigue to the environment, including the operator’s hand/ fingers. In addition, uncovered skin is potentially exposed to solvents. 

Using the open-source online library and the CreatBot D600 Pro, it was possible to produce a universal fit trigger grip safety tool almost immediately.  

More information 

For more information, please contact Senior Engineer, Gabor Gulics: