Opel reduces assembly tool production costs by up to 90%

Posted on 25 Nov 2015 by Tim Brown
Among the assembly tools 3D printed by Opel with its Stratasys FDM 3D Printers are those used to position the roof onto vehicles - image courtesy of Stratasys
Among the assembly tools 3D printed by Opel with its Stratasys FDM 3D Printers are those used to position the roof onto vehicles - image courtesy of Stratasys.

Automotive OEM, Opel, has reportedly slashed its manufacturing tool production costs by up to 90% using 3D printers, and is now able to 3D print assembly tools in less than 24 hours.

Opel was the third-largest passenger car brand in the EU in 2014, and together with Vauxhall, sold more than a million cars.

With efficient production crucial to its success, Opel’s International Technical Development Center is 3D printing a range of manufacturing and assembly tools to advance the production of its iconic ‘Adam’ hatchback car.

These assembly tools are used to precisely attach different components to the car, such as the rocker molding and roof spoilers, align the iconic ‘Adam’ lettering on the rear-side window, as well as assemble the glass and retractable roofs.

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“Besides the cut in tool production time and considerable cost reductions, customized tools are a third important benefit achieved with 3D printing. We are now able to produce more complex shapes than we could via conventional manufacturing. This crucially allows us to adapt the tool to the worker and the specific car,” says Sascha Holl, Virtual Simulation Engineer – Tool Design at Opel.

The Opel 3D printed assembly tools are used to align the iconic 'Adam' lettering on the rear side window and any design iterations to the manufacturing tools are easily accommodated in a matter of hours- image courtesy of Stratasys
The Opel 3D printed assembly tools are used to align the iconic ‘Adam’ lettering on the rear side window and any design iterations to the manufacturing tools are easily accommodated in a matter of hours- image courtesy of Stratasys

Since 3D printing its manufacturing tools, the company involves its assembly-line workers in the design process to improve efficiency. This allows operators to evaluate concepts, using their experience to highlight any potential issues before committing to the production of the final assembly tool for each specific car component. With Stratasys 3D printing, any required design iterations to the Opel manufacturing tools are easily accommodated in a matter of hours, eliminating costly iterations further along the production process.

“Cases like Opel emphasise the massive impact that low risk, high-reward 3D printed parts – such as manufacturing tools – can have on production efficiency,” says Andy Middleton, president, Stratasys, EMEA.

“The capability to produce such items on-demand at a reduced costs can significantly accelerate time-to-production and give businesses that competitive edge. Combine that with the ability to customize tools efficiently, as well as create complex geometries, and you can see why Opel is indicative of the way in which additive manufacturing is transforming our customer’s production operations.”