Mercedes-Benz Trucks, a division of multinational automotive corporation Daimler (ETR: DAI), has announced the production of its first metal 3D printed spare parts.
The components, made directly from a digital data inventory, were produced for classic truck and Unimog models, now 15 years of out production.
It is the first time the company has released details of its digital spare part initiative – first announced in July 2016.
The edge on die-cast aluminium
The 3D printed parts for the classic Mercedes-Benz models are thermostat covers for installation in a truck’s engine. These are made from an aluminium/silicon/magnesium alloy (ALSi10Mg) and 3D printed using the selective laser melting (SLM) technique.
Though Mercedes has not released details of the exact machine used, it is likely that production will have been aided by metal additive manufacturing specialist EOS, a close partner of the company and collaborator on the Next Gen AM project.
The parts delivered offer high strength, hardness, and dynamic resistance matching the company’s stringent quality assurance specifications.
In comparison with conventionally die-cast aluminium parts, the 3D printed covers offer almost almost 100 percent density and a greater material purity.
Spare part production anywhere and everywhere
The success of thermostat cover qualification paves the way for more decentralized production at Mercedes-Benz.
Andreas Deuschle, Head of Marketing & Operations in Customer Services & Parts at Mercedes-Benz Trucks, comments, “The availability of spare parts during a workshop visit is essential for our customers – no matter how old the truck is, or where it is located.”
Daimler presents additive manufacturing on a plate. Clip via Next Gen AM at EOS.
“The particular added value of 3D printing technology is that it considerably increases speed and flexibility, especially when producing spare and special parts. This gives us completely new possibilities for offering our customers spare parts rapidly and at attractive prices, even long after series production has ceased.”
Through a partnership with Ricoh, Mercedes-Benz Trucks parent company Daimler is also implementing additive manufacturing into its rapid prototyping process, and rolling out on-demand plastic part production for its buses.
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Featured image: 3D printed metal thermostat covers before cleaning in the SLM build chamber. Photo via Mercedes-Benz/Daimler
Update: As eagle-eyed readers have noted, the additive manufacturing machine in use at Mercedes-Benz Trucks appears to be a Renishaw AM400. Many thanks to all those who got in touch, well spotted!