Additive Manufacturing Design Case for John Deere’s Hydraulic Block

John Deere Forestry Oy asked Etteplan to redesign a hydraulic block for a tree harvester boom in order to best utilize the geometric freedoms offered by additive manufacturing, i.e. 3D printing. The goals from the redesign were to decrease pressure drop, make assembly easier, reduce weight, and minimize production costs. 

Simulation-driven design approach


For this project Etteplan formed a team that included experts in AM design, AM simulation, computational fluid dynamics (CFD), and finite element analyses (FEA). The design workflow started with performance analysis of the original hydraulic block and then ideation for new channel design concepts.

Original hydraulic block on harvester boom

CFD analyses allowed the performance of the designs to be compared through computation of pressure drop. The new channel design was selected based on a combination of performance and printability, and was fine-tuned to improve both. Next detailed design work was carried out for the full hydraulic block, followed by FEM strength calculations. The design was fine-tuned again to improve strength and ensure that it withstands the known loadings during operation. Print process simulation was utilized to determine the best orientation on the build platform in order to minimize recoater-crash risk, to check distortion levels of the part during and after printing, and to aid in the design of support structures. 

Etteplan workflow additive manufacturing
Etteplan’s simulation driven AM design workflow for the John Deere Forestry Oy hydraulic block case


Etteplan was able to create a new hydraulic block with a pressure drop reduction of 40% and mass reduction of 60% compared to the traditionally manufactured component. The channels were also designed to deal with high velocity flow of hydraulic oil in both directions and to be self-supporting during printing. This design also makes assembly and disassembly of surrounding components during maintenance easier due to the smaller overall size of the part.

Additive manufactured harvester hydraulic block designed by Etteplan’s AMO team for John Deere Forestry Oy

Keys to success

Etteplan’s redesign of the harvester hydraulic block met the objectives set out by John Deere Forestry Oy. This unique and efficient channel design was discovered due to the excellent teamwork of Etteplan’s 3D printing and simulation experts. 

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