Aug 2, 2017 | By David

A significant 3D printing milestone was achieved in the automobile industry recently, as German manufacturer Mercedes-Benz continued to stay ahead of its competitors in terms of implementation of the technology. The company finished its extensive quality assurance process on the first ever fully 3D printed metal spare part, which is now ready to be released to the market. The part is a thermostat cover for Mercedes-Benz’s truck and Unimog models, made of aluminium and highly resistant to heat.

The Customer Services and Parts division of Mercedes-Benz Trucks has been making use of 3D printing for over a year now, using the technology to produce replacement parts for after-sales to its customers. Working together with researchers and pre-developers at parent company Daimler AG, the team continuously improved and expanded application of the most cutting-edge 3D printing processes for production of replacement plastic parts. Smaller batch production in particular has benefitted from the technology, which was previously only used for prototyping. The latest progression, from plastic to metal components, is a serious step forward for the automotive manufacturing sector.

"With the introduction of 3D metal printing technology, Mercedes-Benz Trucks is reasserting its pioneering role among global commercial vehicle manufacturers," says Andreas Deuschle, Head of Marketing & Operations in Customer Services & Parts at Mercedes-Benz Trucks. "We ensure the same functionality, reliability, durability and cost-effectiveness with 3D metal parts as we do with conventionally produced parts."

Whereas the plastic parts produced by the company were made using the SLS (Selective laser sintering) 3D printing method, the metal parts like the thermostat cover make us of Selective Laser Melting. This process uses lasers to melt specific areas of a bed of silicon/ aluminium powder, which then re-solidify in place, gradually building up an object layer-by-layer.

The benefits of using 3D printing technology to produce metal spare parts are numerous. The method can be applied to any part whatsoever, as all that is required is a virtual 3D model. This means there is no extensive development work or procurement of special tools necessary. Some of the primary conceivable areas of use are peripheral engine parts made of metal, in-engine parts and also parts in cooling systems, transmissions, axles or chassis.

The use of 3D printing will contribute greatly towards the classic car market, where many older components may be particularly difficult to get hold of or to manufacture using traditional methods. A component can now be printed at the touch of a button, with all the 3D models for each replacement parts stored on a large, easily accessible database. This also saves on storage costs. The quality of the parts that are 3D printed is much higher than the same parts made through die casting methods, with improved strength and dynamic resistance possible due to the increased purity and density.

According to Deuschle, "The availability of spare parts during a workshop visit is essential for our customers – no matter how old the truck is, or where it is located. The particular added value of 3D printing technology is that it considerably increases speed and flexibility, especially when producing spare and special parts. This gives us completely new possibilities for offering our customers spare parts rapidly and at attractive prices, even long after series production has ceased..."

The future of 3D printing for Mercedes-Benz’s Customer Services and Parts division should see its use of the technology being entirely decentralized. This would mean that replacement parts would be available locally, on-demand, which would cut down on shipping and warehouse costs as well as wait times for customers.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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carfan2011 wrote at 8/3/2017 4:50:42 PM:

This is very interesting but i would like more in-depth coverage of how the bavarian car industry is implementing 3d printing! for example, AUDI have started 3d printing connectors for their chassis guide trains and I haven't seen that covered here at all! 3d printed car parts must undergo mechanical stresses beyond most other 3d printed parts and it would be a very good direction for this blog to cover... disappointing mr david

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