Mercedes-Benz Trucks is using the latest 3D printing technology to make spare parts for its trucks available to customers on demand.
As part of its after-sales service, the auto manufacturer has invested in the pioneering technology to replace conventional production for certain plastic spare parts, saving time, space, materials and money in the process.
The parts that will be available include covers, spacers, spring caps, air and cable ducts, clamps, mountings and control elements, among others.
The printing process utilises Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and highly optimised process parameters.
Andreas Deuschle, head of marketing and operations in the Customer Services and Parts Mercedes-Benz Trucks division, said: “We set the same benchmarks for reliability, functionality, durability and economy for spare parts from 3D production as for parts from conventional production.
“However, 3D offers many more possibilities; this is why we shall be rapidly extending the production of 3D printed parts.”
The process conserves resources by cutting wastage, saving space and allowing greater production capacity by enabling on-demand production of parts for which there is only a low demand.
The printing process can be completed in a very short timeframe, considerably speeding up supply once orders are received.
As spare retrofit parts can still be easily reprinted even after the original product line has ended using data stored and supplied without any complex stocking, no warehousing is required either.
Every spare part can be ordered by the customer using a special code number from customer catalogues.
Daimler, owner of Mercedes-Benz, already prints over 100,000 prototype parts for its company divisions a year, but this is the first time it has become part of the standard after-sales offer for a major truck manufacturer.
“We benefit from our extensive experience at Daimler with 3D printing processes in prototype construction”, Deuschle added.
As of September 2016, 30 different parts will be available to customers globally, with more set to be developed in future.
3D printing is part of the emerging ‘fourth industrial revolution’, whereby manufacturers use data and autonomous communication between machinery to unlock a vast array of new business opportunities and efficiencies.