Mercedes-Benz Trucks already successfully produces 30 spare parts with the latest 3D SLS printing processes. Photo: Daimler

Mercedes-Benz Trucks already successfully produces 30 spare parts with the latest 3D SLS printing processes. Photo: Daimler

Daimler Trucks North America has announced will make its first delivery of plastic parts produced using 3D printing technology in the coming weeks as part of a pilot program.

During the pilot phase of the 3D printed parts program, DTNA will release a controlled quantity of 3D printed parts and will invite feedback from customers and technicians that receive them. The company will collect data on the parts performance and assess potential future demand for 3D printed parts.

DTNA sees 3D printing as an opportunity to better service customers, particularly those customers in need of parts that have been difficult to provide through traditional supply chain models, such as for older trucks or parts with low or intermittent demand.

To print the parts, DTNA partnered with the 3D printing service bureau, Technology House, which has over 20 years of experience in additive manufacturing. The companies have made the first parts available to customers with Selective Laser Sintering. The SLS process refers to layering powder in a print chamber and then “selectively” melting a pattern with lasers before adding the next layer. The 3D printed parts have been validated to meet durability requirements and many will appear no different to the untrained eye, according to DTNA. During the pilot phase, only parts such as nameplates, map pockets, and plastic covers will be printed and delivered.

Parts that are eligible for 3D printing are being stored in DTNA’s digital warehouse. This allows a part to be printed on demand with shorter lead times. Without the need to maintain tooling, these parts will remain available to customers when needed.

On-demand 3D printing also removes the need of holding physical inventory. Currently, the order process takes 2-4 weeks, but once the program is fully launched, parts will be able to be shipped in just a few days, according to DTNA. This capability has the potential to increase uptime for our customers who may otherwise experience long wait times for a hard-to-find part.

“Over the past five years, DTNA has made significant financial and intellectual investments in the supply chain network in order to deliver parts to our customers faster than ever before,”  said Jay Johnson, general manager, aftermarket supply chain, Daimler Trucks North America. “What DTNA is launching today with 3D printing is only the beginning as we continue to develop this technology in our quest to be the benchmark for parts availability.”