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. 

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