Aug. 20, 2014

The automobile industry is increasingly using 3D printing to reduce material and labor costs. At Opel, assembly tools produced by a 3D printer are an increasingly important part of the production process. Automakers and suppliers like high quality tools because they make many assembly operations errorless.

Opel revealed today that a team led by Virtual Simulation Engineer Sascha Holl uses 3D printing to produce plastic assembly tools in Rüsselsheim factory in Germany. Thanks to 3D printing, these tools are cheaper and quicker to produce and are used in Opel manufacturing plants across Europe. For example, these tools are currently used at Opel Eisenach for the assembly of the ADAM and its new ADAM ROCKS stable-mate.

© GM Company

And this is just the beginning – Opel experts predict the use of tools from a 3D printer will continue to grow. "In the future, more and more 3D assembly tools will be integrated into the production process," says Sascha Holl.

Around 40 3D printed assembly aids and jigs are used in Eisenach for the production of the ADAM ROCKS, which is set to be launched in September. Engineers use an assembly jig – a specific, fixed frame – made by a 3D printer to produce the vehicle name logotype on the side window. And for the windshield, a 3D-printed inlet guide is also used to simplify the mounting process and help ensure a precise alignment. Other tools from the printer are used to fasten the chrome step plate on ADAM ROCKS door openings and install the standard Swing Top canvas roof.

© GM Company

With digital technology, engineers can develop these tools during the development phase of ADAM ROCKS. "It enables us to quickly adapt the parts. If something changes on the vehicle, we can easily modify the tool with just a few clicks," explains Holl. "The 3D printing process enables us to produce every imaginable form and shape. Unlike conventional manufacturing technology, we don't have to accept any limitations."

© GM Company

The 3D printed tools are light, robust and versatile. During 3D printing process, plastic is melted and laid down in layers, each just 0.25 mm thick. Hollow spaces and overhangs are automatically treated with a filling material, which is later washed away in a type of dishwasher. "The process is comparable to bridge or balustrade construction," says Holl. "There high or protruding elements must also be shored up and supported until everything has hardened off. Only then is the supporting framework removed."

A specific, fixed frame made by a 3D printer is used to produce the vehicle name logotype on the side window. | © GM Company

According to Opel, the production cost of these aids is now reduced by up to 90 percent. In addition, the printed tools are up to 70 percent lighter in weight, and each of these assembly aid can be ready in just some hours. Another advantage is that these aids can be mechanically and chemically processed. For example, they can be drilled, milled, sanded, varnished and bonded, or connected and combined with various other materials.

"We can adapt the tools for each assembly situation, as well as make them user-friendly for our colleagues on the line," adds Holl.

3D printed tools are currently being used in the production of the Opel Insignia and Cascada, an will be introduced step-by-step for the assembly of other Opel models, such as the new Corsa, Vivaro and Mokka, which will begin rolling off the assembly lines in Zaragoza later this year.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications

Maybe you also like:


Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to Feeds twitter facebook   

About provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive