Mercedes-Benz Trucks has taken 3D printing a stage further. The first printed spare part made of metal – a thermostat cover for older model series trucks and Unimogs – has passed all the stages of the stringent quality assurance process at Mercedes-Benz smoothly, and is now celebrating its premiere.
“With the introduction of 3D metal printing technology, Mercedes-Benz Trucks is reasserting its pioneering role among global commercial vehicle manufacturers,” said 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.”
Over the past 12 months, Customer Services & Parts has worked with the researchers and pre-developers at Daimler AG to improve and expand the use of 3D printing processes for plastic parts. It has now been established as an additional production method, and is particularly suitable for producing smaller batches.
Metal parts from the 3D printer excel with their high strength and thermal resistance, and the process is therefore particularly suitable for the production of mechanically and thermally stressed components required in small numbers. Metallic components can be produced ‘at the touch of a button’ with any geometry and in any numbers.
3D replacement parts production began with rarely ordered aluminium parts. Apart from their high strength and hardness, as well as high dynamic resistance, their production requires no cost-intensive development work or procurement of special tools. Conceivable areas of use are peripheral engine parts made of metal, in-engine parts and also parts in cooling systems, transmissions, axles or chassis. Especially when they have complex structures, 3D-printed metal parts in small numbers can be produced cost-effectively as infrequently requested replacement parts, special parts and for small and classic model series.
“The availability of spare parts during a workshop visit is essential for our customers – no matter how old the truck, or where it is located,” Andreas Deuschle added. “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.”
In the future, 3D metal printing might allow decentralised, and therefore much faster, local production directly in the worldwide Mercedes-Benz production locations. This would further improve parts availability: expensive warehousing and the associated, complex transport processes would be unnecessary, with delivery times made shorter for customers.