Stratasys Volvo slashes tool production time by more than 94%
Germany – Using a Stratasys Fortus 3D Production System, France-based Volvo Trucks has reduced turnaround times of certain assembly line manufacturing tools from 36 days to two days while reducing tooling costs.
Volvo Trucks’ Lyon engine plant produces various engine types and sizes for the Volvo Group, including Renault Trucks, which the Group bought in 2001. According to Stratasys, Volvo Trucks has dramatically decreased turnaround times of assembly line manufacturing tools by more than 94% since incorporating Stratasys additive manufacturing technology at its engine production facility in Lyon, France.
Improving overall efficiency and flexibility
According to Pierre Jenny, manufacturing director at Volvo Trucks, the company has reduced the time taken to design and manufacture certain tools traditionally produced in metal, from 36 days to just two days in thermoplastic ABS-plus using its Stratasys Fortus 3D Production System. These significant gains in time are also improving the production plant’s overall efficiency and flexibility; delivery times are upheld and the use of additive manufacturing has saved costs by reducing wastage.
From a financial perspective, Jenny estimates that, where customised or small quantities of tools are required, the all-in cost of 3D printing ABS thermoplastic items is - in some cases - as little as 1€/cm3, compared to up to 100€/cm3 if making the same item from metal.
“Stratasys 3D printing has made an incredible impact to the way we work,” he explains. “The capability to produce a virtually unlimited range of functional tools in such a short timeframe is unprecedented and enables us to be more experimental and inventive to improve production workflow.”
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Volvo Trucks purchased its Fortus 3D Production System from Stratasys’ reseller CAD-Vision and within a three month period - had already 3D printed more than 30 different production tools to facilitate the way its production line operators worked. These include a range of different durable yet lightweight clamps, jigs, supports and even ergonomically-designed tool holders that ensure a more organized working environment for operators.
“We’re working in the heavy-industry sector, so reliability is naturally critical. So far every piece that we have 3D printed has proved to be 100% fit-for-purpose,” adds Jean-Marc Robin, Technical Manager, Volvo Trucks. “This is crucial from a practical aspect, but also instils trust among operators and quashes any traditional notion that everything has to be made from metal in order to function properly,” he adds.
AM enables design team to be more responsive
According to Robin, developing production tools using additive manufacturing also enables the equipment design team to be far more responsive, while avoiding possible wastage in the event of last minute design changes before tools are made.
“The fast and cost-effective nature of additive manufacturing means that we are far less restricted than we were even six months ago, allowing us to constantly improve our processes,” he continues. “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. Additionally, 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,” he adds.