Mercedes-Benz Trucks, Stuttgart, Germany, has produced and successfully tested its first metal additively manufactured (3D printed) spare part. The part, a thermostat cover, will now enter service on trucks and Unimog models from older series.
The manufacture of the company’s first successful metal AM replacement part follows the production of a number of plastic AM components since mid-2016. Developed by the company’s Customer Services & Parts division in collaboration with researchers and pre-developers at Daimler AG, the AM process for replacement parts has now been firmly established as an alternative method for the production of components in small batches.
Mercedes-Benz Trucks’ began developing its metal Additive Manufacturing process with the production of rarely-ordered aluminium parts. Using AM, the company was able to achieve parts with almost 100% density, greater purity than conventional die-cast aluminium parts, very high strength and thermal resistance – making the process particularly suitable for small batches of mechanically and thermally stressed components.
With the addition of metal AM technology, Mercedes-Benz Trucks’ ability to quickly meet orders for replacement parts will be greatly enhanced. In the past, the production of metal replacement parts has been dependent on the availability of the type of tool used in their original manufacture, making the cost of obtaining replacement parts for older models prohibitively high, especially in small batches. The use of AM has the potential to allow the geometry of parts to be input and reproduced using the same universal platform, making their production cost-efficient even at low quantities.
“Mercedes-Benz Trucks is reasserting its pioneering role among global commercial vehicle manufacturers,” stated Andreas Deuschle, Head of Marketing & Operations in Customer Services & Parts at Mercedes-Benz Trucks. “We ensure the same functionality, reliability, durability and cost-effectiveness with 3D metal parts as we do with conventionally produced parts.”
This means that even for classic models, high-quality replacement parts could soon be available worldwide. The new thermostat cover, for example, is only used in truck and Unimog models whose production ceased around fifteen years ago. This part can now be delivered affordably to any country on request, in the required numbers and at consistent quality.
The availability of low-volume production process also has the potential to eliminate the need for high-cost warehousing and high-volume transport of large batches of ‘back-up’ replacement parts for discontinued models, further reducing part costs and delivery times for both company and customers. “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. […] This gives us completely new possibilities for offering our customers spare parts rapidly and at attractive prices, even long after series production has ceased,” Deuschle concluded.