Mercedes-Benz Turns to 3D Printing for Plastic Spare Parts

This marks the first time the company is offering 3D-printed spare parts.
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This article originally appeared on Plastics Technology magazine's website. 

German truck manufacturer Daimler AG says that its Mercedes-Benz trucks are using the latest 3D printing processes for plastic spare parts. Starting in September, Mercedes-Benz says that 30 genuine 3D-printed spare parts can be ordered and supplied quickly, economically, in any quantity and always in consistent quality. The available spare parts consist of plastic components. Covers, spacers, spring caps, air and cable ducts, clamps, mountings and control elements are a few examples of the spare part production.

"In keeping with our brand promise 'Trucks you can trust', we set the same benchmarks for reliability, functionality, durability and economy for spare parts from 3D production as for parts from conventional production,” said Andreas Deuschle, head of marketing & operations in the customer services & parts Mercedes-Benz trucks division. "However, 3D offers many more possibilities; this is why we shall be rapidly extending the production of 3D-printed parts."

Currently at Daimler more than 100,000 printed prototype parts are manufactured for the individual company divisions every year. Deuschle said that this prototype construction provided the company with extensive experience with the 3D printing processes.

The printed spare parts are created with 3D printers based on the selective laser sintering (SLS) printing process. For the high quality standards of Mercedes-Benz trucks, the process parameters have been optimized and determined by the Daimler research and development divisions. Every 3D-printed spare part can be ordered by the customer using the special spare part number under which it is recorded in the order code lists and the spare parts catalogues at Mercedes-Benz trucks.

The company says that the challenge in the spare parts business lies in securing supply even for model series that are no longer produced. This means that the range also includes spare parts that have a low demand in small quantities every year. Producing them is increasingly uneconomical for suppliers—production facilities and tools often have to be retained and maintained for years. However, the company says that the 3D printing process solves these challenges. Every 3D spare part is available on demand at short notice all over the world.

The printing itself can take place within a very short time following receipt of the design definition and order, considerably speeding up the production and supply of spare parts. As spare and retrofit parts can still easily be "reprinted" even after a long time using the data stored and supplied without any complex stocking, no warehousing is required either.