3D-Printed Tooling at Volkswagen Autoeuropa
A video illustrates how the automotive manufacturing facility is using Ultimaker 3D printers to dramatically reduce the time and cost of developing jigs, fixtures and manufacturing aids.
A recent blog post on this site made the point that while additive manufacturing may not be practical for the mass production of automotive parts, 3D-printed tooling—jigs, fixtures and the like—holds significant promise for this industry. The video below illustrates this perfectly, showing how Volkswagen Autoeuropa is using its seven Ultimaker 3D printers to create custom tooling.
The automotive manufacturing facility, located in Portugal, specializes in new car models, producing 100,000 cars per year. Since integrating its Ultimaker 3 and Ultimaker 2+ 3D printers, the plant has reduced its tool development time by 95 percent. In 2016, the plant printed 1,000 parts and saved $160,000; in 2017, that figure is expected to increase to $200,000.
Other benefits that Volkswagen Autoeuropa has gained from this approach include:
- The flexibility to employ a trial-and-error strategy in developing manufacturing aids, something that was impractical when working with external suppliers.
- Ergonomic improvements to manufacturing aids as a result of continuous operator feedback (and the freedom to respond to this).
- Reduced tool lead time, condensed from weeks to days.
- The ability to adjust designs or replace worn parts of tools without scrapping the entire tool.
General Motors’ Spring Hill, Tennessee, facility is finding opportunities to replace conventional tooling components with 3D printed alternatives made in house. The result is cheaper tooling on a shortened timeline, with better functionality.
The Melvin sisters launched their startup, The Future of Jewelry, when they couldn’t find matching signet rings. Now, customers can design exactly the ring they want, to be produced affordably through 3D printing and/or lost wax casting.
Disrupted supply chains are just one more effect of the coronavirus pandemic. These 3D printing service providers are ready to help fill production gaps with parts, tooling and prototypes.