In Europe, Mercedes-Benz Trucks has printed its first spare part made of metal that has passed all stages of the company’s quality assurance process.
The 3-D printed part was a thermostat cover for older series Mercedes-Benz truck and Unimog models. Daimler said this was the first time the company was able to print a strong metal version in original quality.
Printing parts that are made of metal could lead to cost-effective, rapid, and flexible production of parts in small batches. Producing metal parts directly from digital records saves money on special tools, storage, and transport costs.
"With the introduction of 3D metal printing technology, Mercedes-Benz Trucks is reasserting its pioneering role among global commercial vehicle manufacturers," said Andreas Deuschle, head of marketing and operations for 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."
The parts division of Mercedes-Benz Trucks began using 3D printing with increasing success for aftermarket and replacement parts about a year ago. Since then, the customer services and parts division has worked with researchers and pre-developers at Daimler to improve and expand the use of the latest 3D printing processes of plastic parts.
Metal components produced through 3D printing processes are an extension of this program, allowing metallic components to be produced on demand. The process was initially used to produce rarely ordered aluminum parts, but in the future it could extend to peripheral engine parts made of metal, in-engine parts, or parts in cooling systems, transmissions, axles, or chassis.
“The particular added value of 3D printing technology is that it considerably increases speed and flexibility, especially when producing spare and special parts,” said Deuschle. “This gives us completely new possibilities for offering our customers spare parts rapidly and at attractive prices, even long after series production has ceased.”