Dana Inc Deploys Markforged 3D Printers for Auto Parts Business

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On the financial front, Markforged has obviously made big news this year with its SPAC merger; however, it’s on the ground that these businesses need to make an impact in order to ensure their longevity. The 3D printer manufacturer has had no shortage of industrial customers and one of its latest is a key player in the automotive sector.

Markforged 3D printers located at a Dana facility. Image courtesy of Markforged.

Dana Incorporated (NYSE: DAN) is a roughly $8.6 billion company by revenue, with 36,000 employees across 33 countries, and supplies critical drive and motion systems, along with a number of other products across the automotive industry. In turn, its solutions are featured on the vehicles of such companies as Ford, FCA, Renault-Nissan, and PACCAR. And, in 2020, the Fortune 500 firm began tapping into the power of 3D printing.

It began by determine which printers would be the best investment for the company. Terry Hammer, Vice President of Light-Vehicle and Global Core Engineering at Dana, noted, “Dana took a very structured approach to additive manufacturing. We wanted to define the value first.” This led Dana to Markforged, from whom it purchased two X7 and two Metal X 3D printers, deploying one of each in its Maumee, Ohio and Trento, Italy facilities.

The goal from the start was to be able to replace specialized tooling in the most cost-effective manner. After establishing a game plan, the company began exploring how best to use the technology. Kelly Puckett, Senior Manager of Additive Manufacturing, said, “I’m tasked to ensure Dana uses additive more frequently or in a better way,” matching Dana’s motto of “People Finding A Better Way.”

Kelly Puckett, Senior Manager of Additive Manufacturing at Dana, removing a part off the Markforged print bed. Image courtesy of Markforged.

The two businesses then collaborated significantly to ensure the successful use of the technology, with Markforged actually improving and even establishing some of its products and services as a result. This included Enterprise Eiger, Markforged University, Turbo Print, and Blacksmith. Over 150 Dana employees participated in Markforged University, to provide engineers and designers with the tools necessary for effective use of the equipment.

Custom dies made for a prototype power electronics cooler, stamped from sheet metal. Image courtesy of Markforged.

Since it acquired the equipment in 2020, Dana has already begun achieving what it set out to do. The Power Technologies division in Ontario, Canada has used the X7 to create functional forming dies for stamping sheet metal into proof-of-concept designs. This makes it possible to test goods and prep for customer analysis more efficiently and at scale.

“We have begun to produce some of the tools and fixtures that we might have purchased on the outside before,” Puckett said. “Especially as we go to the plants, the plant engineer that needs something printed with a machine — they need it today. And the faster we can get it to their hands with the least amount of effort for them to get it produced, the better off they are.”

3D printed workholding gear. Image courtesy of Markforged.

In Italy, X7 machines are used to produce internal tooling and fixtures. This includes fixtures that hold gears that micro-grinding hydraulic part surfaces. In the past, these pieces were machined out of high-density ABS sheets, but the parts would become too expensive when small holes needed to be milled into them. By 3D printing these fixtures, however,  Dana has generated 70 percent in cost savings and a 90 percent reduction in lead times for fixtures, all without seeing any of the 3D printed tools break in a year’s time.

“We’re expanding our facility to another floor of the building so we will have a better place for the machines, and we’re finalizing the installation of the Metal X,” said Fabrizio Zendri, Advanced Engineering Manager at Dana in Rovereto, Italy.

Since the initial purchase of Markforged 3D printers, Dana has rolled out the machines across seven countries. In addition to the U.S., Italy and Canada, the automotive manufacturer is relying on Markforged equipment in Brazil, Germany, India, and China.

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