A joint collaboration between internal groups of experts has made it possible for the Volvo Group to put its first 3D printed part in full serial production. The printed part is a connecting block for an oil filling pipe. 1500 units are planned to be 3D printed in plastic by the supplier.
This is not the first application of a printed part delivered to customers. The technology has been applied for non-standard vehicles since 2015. Over 800 parts have been delivered so far on various applications. Now the Volvo Group brings this technology to the next level, with a part that was specifically designed to use the benefits of 3D printing and fully developed following a standardized working process.
From a purchasing point of view, this project has been extremely interesting and challenging, at the same time
– Tala Janho, Adaptation Buyer
Tala Janho continues describing the process:
“The challenges included choosing a suitable supplier for a technology which is in its early introduction phase within Volvo Group, and, among a panel of potential suppliers made of start-up and other small companies, all of them having little knowledge about automotive industry. On top of this, considering the quick and constant evolution of the technology, we had to challenge our traditional ways of working, adding a significant degree of flexibility and openness in our processes.”
All parts for serial production must be quality assured and 3D printed parts are not an exception. Consequentially, the connecting block has been successfully approved according to our standard process for Production Part Approval (PPAP).
Responsible for this approval process is Nicolas Beynet, Supplier Quality Assurance Engineer. According to Nicolas, securing that the supplier fully understood our requirements and expectations from the very beginning was at stake. Also, ensuring part production repeatability was the most challenging as they are not used to upper volumes.
Volvo Group Trucks Purchasing’s ambitions on 3D printing are not limited to these first steps. A global team has been set up, headed by Philippe Grillon, Uptime & Adaptation Senior Project Manager Purchasing, to actively work on creating a globally approved supplier base for additive manufacturing. Ambition is to have, at hand, new solutions to solve service parts availability issues, and to have better suited products for low volume applications.
I am proud of the team’s accomplishments to get this success. This technology is just incredible in the advantages it brings in terms of speed, agility and customer support, and this is in my view perfectly aligned with the DNA of our organization. Now full focus is given on service market cases, several RFQ’s are on-going in parallel to the strategy work, and I’m confident we will soon be able to share some more good news
– Philippe Grillon, Uptime & Adaptation Senior Project Manager Purchasing
3D Printing Manufacturing Tools, Fittings and Fixtures for the Factory Floor
“Volvo Trucks began exploring the use of 3D technology with a prototype approach, identifying opportunities to improve quality in the manufacturing process,” said Franky Marchand, vice president and general manager of NRV. “Several years later, we can now say that 3D printing has become an integral component to our manufacturing processes and culture at NRV.”
3D printing capabilities have improved quality and precision by printing exact copies from models. The technology effectively eliminates error, increasing the chances of first time through (FTT) production of assembly tools and fixtures, streamlining the manufacturing process and enabling customers to receive end products quicker.
Adam Crowder, manager of Advanced Manufacturing Technology at NRV, is leading a global manufacturing-focused network representing 12 Volvo Trucks’ plants around the world, collaborating to develop new 3D printing applications and techniques for improved manufacturing.
After years of internal exploration with 3D printing technology and fine-tuning, there are now more than 500 manufacturing tools and fixtures in use on the NRV shop floor produced using 3D printing.
All of these parts were printed at the Volvo Innovative Projects lab at the Dublin facility. In the state-of-the-art lab, Volvo Trucks primarily uses Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), a 3D printing technology that uses a laser to sinter powdered plastic material into a solid structure that is then rigorously tested and put into use in the manufacturing process.
Using SLS allows engineers to design parts by drawing the end product, putting it in the machine and leaving it to print in a matter of hours during a work day or even overnight, cutting down on the number of hours spent building parts through traditional tooling methods.
The use of this technology also increases flexibility in manufacturing, reducing the wait for new parts from vendors by simply printing them in-house. These capabilities therefore reduce inventory expenses as well, eliminating space needed to house traditionally produced tools, driving costs down in end products for customers.
“While the technology has only been in use for a handful of years, it is already proving to be a valuable component of the manufacturing process at NRV, significantly saving production time and parts costs and continually improving quality,” said Crowder.
Volvo Trucks used 3D printing technology to develop a one-piece diffuser used in the paint atomizer cleaning process, saving the company more than $1,000 per part, as well as eliminating the need for a multiple piece component. Spare parts were also produced for the 20 that were created so that they can easily and quickly be replaced should wear occur.
Additional examples of 3D printed parts in use at Volvo Trucks include:
- Roof seal gauges
- Fuse installation platens
- Drilling fixtures
- Brake piston gauges
- Vacuum drill ducts
- Brake valve fitting gauges
- Hood drilling fixtures
- Power steering adapter holders
- Luggage door gap gauges
- Luggage door pins
“The NRV facility is dedicated to exploring these new technologies to further improve efficiency and quality in our manufacturing and deliver the best products to our customers in a timely manner,” Marchand said. “Thanks to the collaborative effort of the entire team around the globe, we are able to accomplish that goal through 3D printing. We plan to continue to advance this technology to benefit our customers, saving them time and money.”
Volvo Trucks provides complete transport solutions for professional and demanding customers, offering a full range of medium to heavy duty trucks. Customer support is secured via a global network of 2,100 dealers and workshops in more than 130 countries. Volvo trucks are assembled in 15 countries across the globe. In 2018, more than 127,000 Volvo trucks were delivered worldwide. Volvo Trucks is part of Volvo Group, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of trucks, buses, construction equipment and marine and industrial engines. The Group also provides complete solutions for financing and service. Volvo Trucks´ work is based on the core values of quality, safety and environmental care.