Volvo Trucks is decreasing turnaround times of assembly line tools by more than 94% since using Stratasys additive manufacturing technology at its engine production facility in Lyon, France.
According to Pierre Jenny, manufacturing director at Volvo Trucks, the company has reduced the time taken to design and manufacture certain tools traditionally produced in metal, from 36 days to just two days in thermoplastic ABSplus using its Stratasys Fortus 3D Production System.
From a financial perspective, Jenny estimated that, where customized or small quantities of tools are required, the all-in cost of 3D printing ABS thermoplastic items is – in some cases – as little as 1€/cm3, compared to up to 100€/cm3 if making the same item from metal*. Three months after its Fortus 3D purchase Volvo Trucks had already printed more than 30 different production tools.
“We’re working in the heavy-industry sector, so reliability is naturally critical. So far every piece that we have 3D printed has proved to be 100% fit-for-purpose,” added Jean-Marc Robin, Technical Manager, Volvo Trucks.
According to Robin, developing production tools using additive manufacturing also enables the equipment design team to be far more responsive.
“The fast and cost-effective nature of additive manufacturing means that we are far less restricted than we were even six months ago, allowing us to constantly improve our processes. We now have operators approaching our 3D print team with individual requests to develop a custom clamp or support tool to assist with a specific production-line issue they might be having.”
“More and more of our customers are adopting additive manufacturing as the first phase to produce jigs and fixtures,” said Andy Middleton, Senior VP and General Manager, Stratasys EMEA.
“Using additive manufacturing for tooling and work-holding devices is a reliable solution for increasing efficiency in manufacturing processes. In many cases it is also the only feasible solution as production by traditional method is limited due to cost- or design-constraints,” concluded Middleton.
Volvo Trucks’ Lyon engine plant produces various engine types and sizes for the Volvo Group, including Renault Trucks, which the Group bought in 2001.