Additive manufacturing is an ideal application for low-volume production needs, as Siemens Mobility has discovered. The German company uses Stratasys Ltd., FDM 3D printing technology to produce custom final production parts for the German transport services provider, Stadtwerke Ulm/Neu Ulm (SWU) Verkehr GmbH.
With the Stratasys Fortus 900mc Production 3D Printer, Siemens Mobility produces final tram parts in a matter of days compared to weeks with traditional methods, while also eradicating the need for costly tooling.
Prior to its 3D printing production capability, Siemens Mobility faced a challenge in meeting increasing customer demands for one-off custom parts. For the rail industry, if a replacement part is not in stock, Siemens would need to purchase the machinery or tools to manufacture it. From a cost perspective, Siemens was limited to only taking orders above 10 parts, as lower volumes would not justify the production cost.
That has changed with the purchase of the Fortus 900mc. “Our production services for end-use parts have become much more flexible and tailored to our customers’ needs since we introduced the Stratasys Fortus 900mc Production 3D Printer into our manufacturing process,” explains Tina Eufinger, Business Development, Siemens Mobility Division. “Before we integrated 3D printing into production, we were forced to produce higher quantities of parts in order to make the project cost- effective. For small volume part demands from customers, we would store excess parts until they were used, discarded or became too outdated to use. With the Fortus 900mc, we can now create a design that is 100 percent customized to specific requirements and optimized several times before it is 3D printed. This takes our production time down from weeks to a matter of days, and makes it cost-effective enough to extend our customer service offering to one-off part production.”
Siemens’ work for SWU Verkehr GmbH is an example of cost-effective low volume manufacturing. SWU Verkehr offers transport services across 10 rail networks in the inner city of Ulm. 3D printed parts include custom armrests for the driver seat and housing covers for the ‘coupler’ (the cover of the link between two tram carriages). To meet the German rail industry’s criteria for production parts, Siemens is using a flame, smoke and toxicity (FST) compliant synthetic thermoplastic 3D printing material from Stratasys. This enables Siemens to use the 3D printed parts – which serve as lightweight and durable transport parts – directly into the trams in Ulm.
Andreas Düvel, Siemens Mobility Sales Representative Customer Service, explains: “Customers such as SWU Verkehr GmbH see ‘availability’ as the most important asset to their business – trams and services need to be available and run constantly throughout the day in order for the transport company to be profitable. We at Siemens are regularly faced with this challenge, however, the ability to quickly and cost-effectively 3D print customized parts specific to customer requirements enables clients such as SWU Verkehr GmbH to be closely involved in the design and production of its own parts.”
Siemens Mobility division has expanded its business branch online, with customers able to order custom 3D printed parts. Customers who require replacement parts or who need to make changes to existing ones can go online and request the desired part, which is subsequently 3D printed and delivered to them. This has given birth to an on-demand production business model, whereby customers can have part requirements met how and when they need them.