The holidays, which are ideally supposed to be a time of rest and relaxation, can paradoxically be a stressful time for many people. Perhaps some of the most stressed-out people during the holiday season, however, are those who work in the shipping industry – particularly delivery drivers. Not only are they dealing with a greatly increased load of packages to deliver, but they’re also more likely to encounter frustrated customers who want things delivered yesterday. It makes sense, then, that shipping companies would be eager to come up with new ways to make their delivery systems as efficient as possible.
Mercedes-Benz recently developed a new technology to make tracking packages easier and more precise. The company’s Xtron Lab created a smart floor for the cargo area of delivery vans, composed of multiple tiles that sense the individual weights of packages placed upon them. The tiles are actually small boxes containing several components including sensitive load cells that pick up the exact weight of the packages, as well as LED lights that illuminate in various colors to indicate to the driver which package is next to be delivered. The system allows dispatchers to track not only which vehicle is carrying which packages, but to see precisely where each package is placed, and when it is removed for delivery. You can learn more detail in the video below:
To prototype the tiles, Mercedes-Benz turned to their partner FATHOM to quickly design and iterate them using 3D printing. The California-based 3D printing service provider printed multiple prototypes for Mercedes-Benz, churning them out, testing them, fixing issues, and churning out more prototypes at a rapid rate. Without 3D printing, said Christopher Kazanchyan, Prototype Engineer for Mercedes-Benz, there would be no way the company could have produced such a complex system in such a reasonable amount of time.
Mercedes-Benz and FATHOM got the attention of CNET’s “On Cars” feature, which takes a look at the latest technological developments in the automotive industry. The segment, which you can watch below, not only focuses on the Mercedes-Benz project, but offers an inside look at FATHOM and their 3D printing capabilities.
Host Brian Cooley takes viewers around the FATHOM facility, explaining the different types of machines and technology used by the company, including FDM, PolyJet, SLA, SLS and DMLS. Also featured are FATHOM’s most enviable printers. The company is one of the lucky ones, possessing not only a Carbon M1 machine but a DragonFly 2020. FATHOM is only one of six customers to receive a beta version of Nano Dimension’s much-anticipated electronic circuit board 3D printer, whose official release date has not yet been announced.
“This could revolutionize the way electronics is prototyped,” enthuses Cooley. “To rapidly test physical circuit designs, and in the deep future, this might even open the door to printing components – printing LEDs, printing ICs, printing OLED screens.”
The segment is the latest point of pride for FATHOM, which last year was one of the fastest-growing private companies in the United States by the Inc. 500/5000 list. This year, they were named one of the 100 fastest-growing inner-city companies by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC). According to FATHOM Co-Founder and Principal Rich Stump, the company is particularly proud of their latest accomplishment with Mercedes.
“Companies like Mercedes continue to push the envelope in pursuing new technologies. Working with FATHOM, Mercedes accessed the latest additive and traditional manufacturing processes to significantly reduce their development cycle timeline,” Stump told 3DPrint.com. “We were able to get them from concept drawings to fully assembled electromechanical fixtures in just four weeks. This ‘front-loaded design process,’ with rapid iterations happening up front, allowed the Mercedes design team to be more agile in product development and get rapid feedback on what was working and what wasn’t.”
If you’re interested, you can also watch the full “On Cars” episode on which Mercedes-Benz and FATHOM are featured below:
Discuss in the FATHOM forum at 3DPB.com.