Volvo Trucks has implemented 3D printing technology at its plant in Lyon, France to increase the efficiency of its operations.
Volvo now uses 3D printers, developed by Stratasys, to produce critical production line tools.
The tools had previously been made from metal, however using the Stratasys technology Volvo is now able to fabricate them from ABS thermoplastics.
This new approach allows Volvo to manufacture the tools 94% faster than previously possible. While custom metal tools would take the company at least 36 days to be produced, using 3D printed ABS thermoplastic the production time can be cut down to just 2 days.
3D printing and additive manufacturing equipment is becoming increasingly more affordable and versatile, entering a number of different industries and as a result driving UK manufacturing into the future.
From techniques such as laser sintering to fused deposition modelling, and building products from cars to football cleats, advanced technology is set to completely revolutionise manufacturing as we know it.
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In addition, the costs of these 3D printed parts are much cheaper. Plastic tools cost as little as €1 per cm3 ($1.09 per cm3 / £0.75 per cm3) compared to up to 100 euro per cm3 if making the same item from metal.
“Stratasys 3D printing has made an incredible impact to the way we work,” explains Pierre Jenny, manufacturing director at Volvo Trucks. “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.”
Volvo has been using a Fortus 3D Production System from Stratasys, and within a three month period, has already printed more than 30 different production tools, allowing a much greater production line efficiency.
The reliability of the 3D printed tools seems to be on-par with more traditional metal tool.
“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,” said Jean-Marc Robin, Technical Manager, Volvo Trucks.
Boom in 3D printing assisted manufacturing
These production line changes at Volvo belie a continuing boom in manufacturing-focused 3D printing around the globe.
A diverse group of companies from Google to SpaceX and many more, are all using 3D printing, especially for rapid prototyping, in order to speed up their production.
This has been boosted by new 3D printing technologies and systems, allowed for the production of high quality plastic, but also crucially metal parts.
Within this environment, market research firm Canalys expects the market for 3D printers to expand to $16.2bn by 2018.