Renault Buys AM Solutions Post-Processing Equipment

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Renault Flins is the largest factory in the Renault Group. Located near Paris, it produces components for Renault and Nissan and has manufactured the Clio and Zoe models. The site also houses the Refactory, a circular factory concept aimed at promoting more sustainable cars, and it serves as a global training hub for the group. Spiritually important to Renault, the factory has been in operation since 1952 and has produced some of the most storied cars in the company’s history.

The site also houses HP multi jet fusion (MJF) printers, which will now be joined by an AM Solutions S1 machine primarily used to process PA 12. The S1 is a cleaning and resurfacing machine that uses a tumbler. With enhanced monitoring and software, the machine offers more automation and traceability than comparable ones. I always appreciate when people invest in post-processing equipment; you could buy a printer and put it in a corner to show guests, but investing in post-processing equipment indicates you’re making parts extensively enough that manual depowdering becomes impractical.

The Flins facility produces prototypes, jigs, fixtures, and end-use parts for cars, serving Renault and beyond. The site has 18 machines and offers post-processing and dyeing services. The company started in 3D printing 20 years ago with wire directed energy deposition. Now, with its Refactory initiative, the group is interested in refurbishing car parts as well as producing prototypes and new parts.

.Mélanie Chevé, Renault Flins´ Additive Manufacturing Process Manager said, “Industrial 3D printing must be reliable, repeatable and efficient in terms of cost, quality and lead time.” While Flins 3D Printing team member Nicolas Blondel stated, “The ability to use the S1 for different blasting programmes, with different recipes and different media, was the trigger for the post-processing project.”

In addition to saving time and labor, increased repeatability often drives industrial firms to seek more automated, batch-driven finishing solutions. Especially for dyed parts, which the group aims to produce, a uniform surface texture is essential for achieving color matching and consistency when parts are used side by side. By combining depowdering and resurfacing in one step, the S1 is more efficient than simpler units that perform only one step and require extra conveyancing.

Car companies have been using 3D printing for decades. Given their cost levels, it has always been a luxury for them, used for making mirrors for F1 cars or functional prototypes for door handles. Gradually, automotive firms have explored various AM technologies more deeply, employing vat polymerization, powder bed fusion, and material extrusion extensively. Applications such as jigs and fixtures have brought additive manufacturing to the shop floor, with tens of thousands of jigs and fixtures being used by car companies and their suppliers.

Now, companies are looking to low-volume production to take the next step. Printing parts in-house and having a digital supply chain for spare parts is very appealing to the automotive industry. Car companies have tens of billions of dollars tied up in spare parts and often outsource production while focusing on assembly. 3D printing has the potential to be transformative for the automotive industry. However, firms will need to become more familiar with the technology and significantly reduce costs.

Currently, companies are getting their feet wet with hypercars, low-volume special versions of cars, and unique parts for a few customers. Over time, we will see more production and a broader adoption of 3D printing in the automotive sector.

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