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Audi Cuts Fixture Costs by 80% with 3D Printing and trinckle’s Automation Software

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At Audi’s Böllinger Höfe factory in Heilbronn, the auto company uses both manual labor and a high degree of automation to make range-topping cars such as the R8 and e-tron. A part could be manually polished here, while a 3D scanning robot performs QA, and some other welds are expertly made by humans. Now, at the facility, Audi Sport has adopted UltiMaker 3D printers and trinckle´s automated fixturemate software to produce fixtures, resulting in design times that have been reduced from two hours to 20 minutes and fixture cost reduced by 80%,

¨The main benefit of using fixturemate is its ease of use and speed in producing fixtures for our factory. We can bring in trainees and show them how to use the fixturemate software. They can then directly work with this software and create fixtures in a short time,” said Cem Guelaylar, 3D printing team lead at Audi Sport.

“We are proud to highlight that Audi Sport was one of our first customers to use fixturemate, alongside other industry leaders such as Deutsche Bahn and ERIKS. The Audi Sport team has been more than just a client – their positive feedback culture has been extremely helpful in improving the design workflow again and again and keeping the intuitiveness at a top level. The input of our customers is essential to align our design automation as closely as possible to the needs of our industrial customers,” said Ole von Seelen, Chief Commercial Officer of trinckle.

Böllinger Höfe is a relatively small Audi plant, but it’s near one of the main production sites of the group in Neckarsulm. It’s also a net carbon-neutral site. It’s the perfect place to experiment and implement new ideas, given the high degree of manual labor and customization along with the size of the facility. The site is part of Audi Sport, which makes the high-performance R models at Audi, such as the RS6. The firm also makes S line components for Audi and allows people to customize cars under the Audi Exclusive label. With relatively low volume but high customization, this is the perfect case for 3D printing. Using this facility is, therefore, a great springboard for the rest of Audi and Volkswagen.

For the e-tron GT, Audi needs around 200 fixtures. Model years are now frequently updated, and there are many more models and variants than before. Therefore, the need for fixtures is quickly expanding. Fixtures need to be cheaper and faster to make, which is where 3D printing comes in. With fixturemate, Audi can quickly go from an idea to a 3D printed fixture using the software and the 3D printers adjacent to the production floor. Previously, a fixture could take a few weeks to make and was much more expensive. Now, people on or near the production line can make fixtures themselves, which is empowering and puts the ability close to the need.

The fixtures are then produced on UltiMaker 3D printers, which are cost-effective and can be installed easily close to the production line. This makes the fixtures much more affordable since material costs and the initial investment are significantly lower. Additionally, these machines don’t take up a lot of floor space, making them cheaper and more accessible than much larger machines. In a plant, square meters are expensive, and what you put where matters. A smaller form factor, therefore, really helps in the cost-effective placement of 3D printers close to the point of need.

I think this is a great case, and jigs and fixtures are truly the gateway drug to 3D printing, along with Poka Yoke and Lockout Tagout tooling. These are shop floor investments driven by the people making things and help them do their jobs better. Volkswagen was an early adopter of such fixtures, and now Volvo Trucks, Nissan, Ford, and others are following suit. Desktop 3D printers and software such as Fixturemate are easy to implement, easy to unimplement, cheaper than the status quo, and provide real benefits to workers and the companies they work for. We need to develop more cases as good as jigs and fixtures!

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