Daimler Trucks North America to test drive SLS 3D printed spare parts

Heavy duty vehicle manufacturer Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) has announced that it will be 3D printing rare and spare parts on demand to create a more efficient supply chain.

The Portland, Oregon-based vehicle company has teamed up with 3D printing service bureau Technology House, and it will 3D print selected plastic parts over a trial period using SLS. Eligible components will also be digitalized and put into DTNA’s digital parts warehouse.

Piloting a controlled quantity of 3D printed parts

Over the trial period, DTNA will be 3D printing nameplates, map pockets, and plastic covers for customers on-demand. According to DTNA, the 3D printed parts have been “validated to meet durability requirements” and, to the naked eye, appear no different to traditionally manufactured components.

The company will release “a controlled quantity” of these 3D printed parts and take feedback from both customers and technicians who order them. Data will be recorded to assess the performance and the potential future demand for these 3D printed components.

Speaking to 3D Printing Industry, DTNA’s Paige Jarmer explained that the pilot program was expected to last approximately 6-12 months. If the program is successful, as the company anticipates, then it will be expanded to include other parts which are currently under consideration.

DTNA's Freightliner robotic cab assembly in Portland. Photo via DTNA.
DTNA’s Freightliner robotic cab assembly plant in Portland showing the increased efficiency of manufacturing there. Photo via DTNA.

Slashing delivery times

DTNA states that it is 3D printing spare parts to better serve customers who require them for older trucks, or those who need a component with a low intermittent demand.

Digitalizing the parts and storing them in DTNA’s digital warehouse will remove the need to maintain tooling and a physical inventory. This will allow parts to be printed on demand with shorter lead times. It will also reduce the order process from 2-4 weeks down to a few days, once the program is fully launched.

“Over the past 5 years, DTNA has made significant financial and intellectual investments in the supply chain network in order to deliver parts to our customers faster than ever before,” said Jay Johnson, general manager of aftermarket supply chain, at DTNA.

“What DTNA is launching today with 3D printing is only the beginning as we continue to develop this technology in our quest to be the benchmark for parts availability,” Johnson added.

Mercedes-Benz Trucks engine thermostat covers after dusting off powder excess. Photo via Mercedes-Benz/Daimler
Also using AM is sister company Mercedes-Benz Trucks’ 3D printed engine thermostat covers after dusting off powder excess. Photo via Mercedes-Benz/Daimler

Daimler, Mercedes-Benz and 3D printing

With this pilot program, DTNA is following its parent company Daimler AG, which has been 3D printing spare parts for its trucks since 2016. DTNA’s sister company Mercedes-Benz Trucks began SLM 3D printing metal components earlier this year.

In our expert interview series looking at trends in Additive Manufacturing for end-use production, Matthias Krust, Global Business Communications manager at Mercedes-Benz Cars Daimler AG, explained the importance of 3D printing spare parts on-demand for the company’s trucks and buses.

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Featured image shows some of the vehicles for which Daimler will 3D print spare parts. Photo via DTNA.