3D Printing Lowers Downtime – New Solutions for Old Problems


Aya Bentur  

Marines 3D Printed Humvee Door Handle Replacement

In manufacturing every minute counts, a pause in the production line has an immediate effect on the company’s bottom line. If a part of a machine breaks, sometimes ordering the part, producing it and shipping it can take weeks or even months. In the meantime, there are a few possible solutions to avoid downtime, such as replacement parts. It doesn’t have to last as long as a regular part, but a temporary part keeping production running can be priceless. Today at SAP Leonardo in Frankfurt, Mr Bernd Baldauf of Krones talked about providing 3D printed emergency parts, as temporary replacements in manufacturing facilities (below), using SAP’s Distributed Manufacturing and LEO Lane’s service. In this post we offer a few more examples of how companies avoid downtime with the help of AM.

Mr Bernd Baldauf - Krones - 3D printed emergency parts - SAP's Distributed Manufacturing and LEO Lane

Replacing in Defense

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), part of the US Department of Defense (DoD) is using Additive Manufacturing for various functions from manufacturing specialty parts to maintenance. In the field, AM allows for immediate reactions to needs and situations that occur. Near Term work in progress, refers to 3D printed parts used as quick fixes or quick modifications according to mission requirements. Also realizing the potential of AM in the battlefield is the Marine Corps‘ crisis response task force with several 3D printers in combat zones. The Marines have been trained to use them themselves instead of deploying engineers, 3D printing parts on the spot, that would have been shipped from distant locations, allowing them to return broken gear to operational state faster. The on-site 3D printers provide simple and fast solutions to components including radio parts, specialized wrenches, medical apparatus and more (up top 3D printed Humvee door handle). “We believe that additive manufacturing, 3D printing, has much promise to flatten the supply chain because the way our supply chain is currently configured is factory to foxhole. But the factory is all the way back, most times, in the United States,” said Lt. Gen. Michael Dana, deputy commandant for Installations and Logistics.

Parts in Need

Daimler Buses is using 3D printing for customized, small-batch, and replacement parts for its Mercedes-Benz and Setra buses. With customers all over the world, Daimler understands that each customer and each vehicle has different needs. By utilizing AM technology for these parts the company is not only catering to each customer, 3D printing over 780 customized parts (below are 3D printed Daimler truck parts), but it is also avoiding costs related to production, manufacturing tools, storage and excess materials. The company relates to buses as working tools, creating specific solutions for each vehicle enables a more efficient working tool and an efficient work day.

Daimler Trucks 3D printed spare parts

Replacing from Within

Volkswagen Autoeuropa Using AM for Replacements Jigs and Tools

Another way to avoid downtime using 3D printing is creating the right tools for the production line. Volkswagen Autoeuropa is additively manufacturing jigs and tools that were previously outsourced and replacing them with in-house 3D printed parts. Tools, jigs, and fixtures are crucial for a smooth and rapid production line, allowing employees a quick and simple assembly process. “Now we have way more tools, with better fit and for far less money. Just by printing a handful of tools, we can get back the initial investment,” said Luis Pascoa, Pilot Plant Manager at Volkswagen Autoeuropa. One example is a positioning and screwing assembly tool preventing wheels from being scratched or damaged during the assembly process. In the past, outsourcing the part took 56 days and cost the company €800, 3D printing in-house cut the costs to €21 per part and production time to 10 days (above and in video below).

Minimizing the Need for Replacements

Philips and Materialise have worked together to create a replacement part within the manufacturing process of lamps. The part, a bracket, which holds the lamp while heat is applied to seal off the glass, needed to be repaired constantly, about two brackets a week need maintenance. The repairs could not have been done repeatedly so the company would either stock replacement parts or order and receive a new one within approximately 8 weeks. To avoid future downtime, the new 3D printed bracket was redesigned not only to serve as a quick replacement fix, after a process of co-engineering, the two companies developed an additively manufactured bracket that hasn’t failed in the first 3 months and counting. “We thought having to fix parts less often and more easily would be the biggest advantage but so far we haven’t had to replace any. Even if we were to consider this purely in terms of reduced maintenance technician time, we are already saving around €9,000 a year, plus the fact the technician can now concentrate on the real technical problems,” said Philips Factory Engineering Designer, Danny Van der Jonckheyd.

3D Printed Lamp Bracket - Philips and Materialise

We’d love to hear your thoughts and impressions on AM replacement parts – share your comments and suggestions below. For more inspiration and information follow us on Pinterest or subscribe to our newsletter for weekly updates.

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