Volvo Trucks is a global truck manufacturer based in Gothenburg, Sweden, owned by AB Volvo, and the company is the world’s second largest heavy-duty truck brand. The first Volvo truck was produced in 1928, and by 2011, the firm employed some 19,000 people around the world who manufacture and assemble trucks in 15 countries. The company produces and sells more than 100,000 units every year.
And now Stratasys says Volvo Trucks has decreased turnaround times of critical assembly line manufacturing tools by more than 94% since incorporating additive manufacturing technology into their engine production processes in Lyon, France.
Pierre Jenny, the manufacturing director at Volvo Trucks, says using Stratasys AM technology has cut the time it takes to design and manufacture a variety of tools once produced in metal from 36 days to just two days by using thermoplastic ABSplus and the Stratasys Fortus 3D Production System.
According to Jenny, the savings in customized or small production run tools by 3D printing them in ABS thermoplastic is enormous, somewhere in the realm of $1.13 per 0.06 cubic inches versus $113 per 0.06 cubic inches for metal parts (€1/cm3 compared to €100/cm3)
“Stratasys 3D printing has made an incredible impact to the way we work,” Jenny says. “The capability to produce a virtually unlimited range of functional tools in such a short time frame is unprecedented and enables us to be more experimental and inventive to improve production workflow.”
Using a Fortus 3D Production System purchased from Stratasys reseller CADvision, Volvo Trucks 3D printed more than 30 different tools for use by production line operators in three months, and the durable, lightweight clamps, jigs, supports, and ergonomically-designed tool holders were key to plant operations.
“So far every piece that we have 3D printed has proved to be 100% fit-for-purpose. This is crucial from a practical aspect, but also instills trust among operators and quashes any traditional notion that everything has to be made from metal in order to function properly,” says Jean-Marc Robin, the Technical Manager for Volvo Trucks.
Developing production tools using additive manufacturing, noted Robin, allows the equipment design team to be more responsive. The process helps them avoid waste, which can occur in last-minute design changes implemented just before tools are created for the line.
“We now have operators approaching our 3D print team with individual requests to develop a custom clamp or support tool to assist with a specific production-line issue they might be having,” Robin says. “From a time and cost perspective, this is unimaginable with traditional techniques. In the rare case that the design specifications of a traditionally-manufactured metal tool were inaccurate, the lengthy and costly design and manufacturing process had to begin again. With a 3D printed part, we can simply alter the design specifications and re-3D print the piece in a few hours.”
Andy Middleton, Senior VP and General Manager at Stratasys EMEA, says using additive manufacturing for tooling and devices can often be the only feasible solution as production by traditional method is limited due to cost or design constraints.
The Lyon engine plant produces various engine types and sizes for the Volvo Group, which includes Renault Trucks.
Do you know of any other factory production processes that have been streamlined using 3D printing technology? Let us know in the Volvo Trucks Cuts Production Tool Costs forum thread on 3DPB.com.