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Lately, GKN has been sharpening its focus on additive manufacturing, most notably with the formation of GKN Additive earlier this month. Even as the company forms a new division for its additive manufacturing activities, however, its other divisions are continuing to utilize 3D printing within their own operations.

GKN Driveline is the automotive branch of the GKN company, and it serves over 90% of the world’s car manufacturers with its driveline systems and solutions. The division’s customers range from the Chrysler Fiat Automobiles Group to luxury automobiles like Maserati and Ferrari. To keep so many customers satisfied, GKN Driveline needs to constantly be looking for ways to shorten lead times, and it is doing so by using 3D printing in several factory floor applications.

This is the case particularly in the company’s Florence, Italy plant. A while ago, the plant installed a Stratasys Fortus 450mc Production 3D Printer, and has been putting it to good use. In particular, this 3D printer has proved highly valuable for the production of tools. The GKN plant can now produce complex assembly tools for the production line in only a fraction of the time it takes to produce them by traditional methods. For example, a recent project involved the redesign of a greasing nozzle tool to eliminate oil spillages.

“Utilizing our 3D printer, we developed a tool that dramatically improves grease distribution and eradicates the need to clean up time-consuming spillages,” said Carlo Cavallini, GKN Lead Process Engineer and Team Leader at the Florence plant. “This has been crucial to streamlining the production cycle of the half shaft, enabling us to provide customers with premium quality final parts.”

The plant is also using 3D printing to create customized, on-demand replacement parts. The team recently 3D printed a missing cable bracket for a robot, saving a great deal of time; it would have taken them at least one week to get a replacement part from a supplier. They also 3D printed a custom end-of-arm tool that can move individual components from one stage of the production line to another.

“The ability to quickly 3D print tools and parts that are customized to a specific production need gives us a new level of flexibility and significantly reduces our supply chain. Considering that we produce several thousand individual parts a week, this ability to manufacture on-demand is crucial to ensuring our production line is always operational and maintains business continuity,” said Cavallini.

“As we continue to design parts specifically for additive manufacturing, we are finding more and more applications that are delivering value. In the future, I believe that FDM 3D printing will become an integral part of our entire tool development cycle and help us further improve business performance.”

The end-of-arm tool was 3D printed with ULTEM 9085 material and is being used successfully on the assembly line. It has shown itself to be able to stand up to prolonged use with same kind of resiliency as a metal part, so GKN Driveline Florence has been 3D printing several of the custom tools for use across production.

“GKN Driveline Florence is a prime example of how a growing number of future-ready companies are leveraging the capabilities of additive manufacturing to improve different areas of their business,” said Andy Middleton, President of Stratasys EMEA, who recently filled us in on the many sectors employing 3D printing today.

“We are committed to helping these customers identify traditional production processes that can be enhanced, or in some cases, replaced with our 3D printing solutions. It’s this type of applied innovation across the manufacturing process that has seen GKN Driveline Florence accelerate product development, reduce costs and reinvent its supply chain.”

Stratasys will have the Fortus 450mc 3D printer running on the show floor at formnext 2017, alongside their many other offerings.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.

[Images: Stratasys]

 

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