Not only is Mercedes-Benz one of the most well-known brand names in the world, but they are also known for being one of the most long-term customer friendly car companies in the industry. Aside from their quality vehicles and customer service, the prolific car and truck manufacturer also has a longstanding tradition of making sure that virtually every part for every car that they have ever produced is available for purchase. Considering that the company can trace its roots back for more than a century and they have released hundreds of models of cars and trucks all over the world, the logistics of keeping that promise grow larger and more difficult to maintain every year.
It isn’t as if Mercedes-Benz is maintaining their massive backstock of parts and components for charity; their factory original parts can often be quite expensive for most owners. The costs grow even more if it is a very old part that needs to actually be manufactured or re-tooled in order to be made available upon request. That process turns what would normally be a relatively inexpensive part and turns it into a very cost-prohibitive expense. Maintaining a massive stock of parts that are very often no longer even in demand is not only expensive, but consumes a lot of warehouse space. Additionally, many of the older spare parts that the company would like to make available are simply impossible to make using modern manufacturing technology.
Daimler, Mercedes-Benz’ parent company, currently uses commercial 3D printers to produce more than 100,000 prototype parts for all its individual company divisions every year. 3D printing technology has now advanced to the point where these prototypes are virtually identical to the eventually mass produced versions, and cost very little to manufacture. To take advantage of their growing reliance on 3D printing in the design process, Mercedes-Benz Trucks is going to start offering a large catalog of 3D printed versions of replacement parts to customers. Not only will this make many of these parts cheaper for customers, but it virtually eliminates the need for maintaining a large backstock, and allows Daimler to offer a larger number of parts for older and outdated models.
“In keeping with our brand promise ‘Trucks you can trust’, 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,” explained Andreas Deuschle, Head of the Mercedes-Benz Trucks Marketing & Operations in the Customer Services & Parts Division.
As of September 30th Mercedes-Benz Trucks will begin offering thousands of 3D printed thermoplastic replacement parts for dozens of models of their trucks. These are not copies or inexpensive duplicates, but they are factory authentic Mercedes-Benz parts that offer the same quality and durability of the original versions. Traditionally, in order to make sure that as many of their spare parts are available as possible, Daimler manufacturing facilities would need to maintain outdated production facilities and tools for decades. But as the company begins offering more 3D printed spare parts, many of these older systems that are often expensive to maintain and not as environmentally friendly as modern technology can start to be dismantled and eliminated.
The 3D printed spare parts that Daimler will be offering to customers will consist of a wide range of high-quality plastic components. They will include part covers, spring caps, spacers, air ducting, cable ducting, clamps, mounts and control elements. These are parts that Daimler has already produced using 3D printing technology during the development and prototyping phase. The parts will be manufactured on Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) commercial-grade 3D printers using the same process parameters that were developed by the Daimler R&D divisions.
In addition to saving the company and the customer money, it will also save them time. The spare parts can be manufactured to order and will typically sent to the customer within a matter of days. Additionally, because the parts are made to order they can be 3D printed in any of the dozens of Daimler facilities all over the world and shipped to customers nearest to them. 3D printed replacements parts can be ordered the same way that any spare part would be ordered by using a special spare part number. Mercedes-Benz Trucks will maintain a database of available parts and their stock numbers to make ordering easier and more efficient.
Mercedes-Benz Trucks already offers more than 30 3D printed replacements parts for its popular Actros line of semi-trucks. Now thanks to modern manufacturing technologies like 3D printing, they will be able to keep virtually any spare part available to customers no matter how old and rare the corresponding vehicles are. While the company did not provide any specifics, if this spare part manufacturing process is successful it is likely that Daimler will start offering 3D printed replacements parts for their other lines of vehicles. You can see Mercedes-Benz’ entire, massive online part catalog here. How would you feel about having 3D printed parts in your Mercedes? Discuss further in the 3D Printed Parts for Mercedes Trucks forum over at 3DPB.com.