“The Best or Nothing” – How to adopt 3D printed spare parts

“It’s Best or Nothing”. The Germans, known for their efficiency, have understood the significance of swift, grade A manufacturing of spare parts in the everyday business of the automotive industry. At industrial scale 3D printing has previously been merely a curiosity or a cost-effective alternative for rapid prototyping, but the 3D printing industry has gradually evolved into being a serious player when it comes to end product manufacturing and mass production. The global automotive behemoth Daimler has been seeking to gain competitive edge through 3D printed spare parts for some time now.

The Mercedes-Benz, Maybach, and the snappy Smart have kept Daimler in the pole position for passenger car brands for years. Along with the flagship passenger brands Daimler is also a leading operator in the heavier sector in automotive with proven track record in 3D printed spare parts. Daimler Trucks embraced 3D printing in 2016 followed by Daimler Buses in 2019. Last December the Bus division announced that they will be providing top-quality custom-made 3D printed spare parts to all Daimler Bus customer around the world by the end of 2020.

Currently Daimler Buses is in the process to identify spare parts suitable for 3D printing. Their catalogue has over 300 000 parts with 200 parts already approved. There is a tried and tested process to analyse the parts feasibility for printing, a process that we at Materflow also use. Typically the process goes like this:

1: Defining the set of spare parts and classification criteria

Specifying a group of parts and criteria with which the parts are studied and classified further.

2: Removing parts that are unprintable with current technologies

The part should be a single, solid object made from single material (plastic or metal). In some cases parts made from different materials can be attached after printing. Other restrictions include size: the part must fit inside the 3D printers’ build chamber. At Materflow the max size for plastic parts is 320x320x600mm (with nylon based PA2200). Max size for metal parts is 280x280x365mm (stainless steel 316l).

3: Removing parts that are not practical to print

After printing the part must be ready for use either promptly or with reasonable post processing. If a single object is printable but the whole part requires other objects which are unprintable, another production method might be more suitable.

4: Classifying the remaining parts according to financial benefits

Selecting the parts which are more profitable to print than produce with other methods. Standard parts and products are usually more affordable to produce with conventional methods without any availability problems. The competitive edge with 3D printed parts can be achieved with on-demand production which cuts unnecessary logistics costs from the supply chain.

As the slogan says, it’s best or nothing. The same goes with spare parts from which only the best suited should be printed. To asses the parts a deeper knowledge and understating of the different 3D printing techniques is a must, as well as understanding the parts technical requirements. From here it’s fairly easy to rule out the parts that are unsuitable because of size, material, costs or post process assembly.

Also: do it like Daimler and keep your eyes on the horizon. The print materials are constantly developed to match future regulatory requirements.

There is no denying that 3D printed parts can have a substantial effect on costs regarding production and logistics. The impact is also clear regarding the effectiveness of production and logistics. The first move towards the bliss that is 3D printed parts is contact. To get in touch use the form below. We’ll get back to you as soon we can to review any or all parts that might have potential.

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