Sometimes, an urgently needed spare part is not available aboard and it would be both too expensive and too time-consuming to send an aircraft fly to a base where it could be obtained via the logistical supply chain. This is why 3D printers have been installed in US aircraft carriers. And these are able to print impressively large objects in a wide variety of appropriate materials.
The same technique is spreading among the ground forces in some large-scale operations. It is the case for the NATO-led Resolute Support operation in Afghanistan. The foundations for the use of this technology have been laid in Mazar-e Sharif in what is commonly called the “maintenance mile”. By means of 3D printing, individual requirements from the soldiers on operations can be fulfilled more quickly.
SLM Solutions has revealed automotive giant, Audi has been using its selective laser melting process to produce prototypes and manufacture rarely-requested spare parts.
The German company has sought to adopt SLM’s metal 3D printing technology to target a number of automotive applications. Typically, it is the smaller, more complex, and less cost-sensitive components, like the water adapters for the Audi W12 engine, which are produced on-demand by Audi with an SLM 280 machine, that are most suitable to be additively manufactured.
Audi has been utilising metal additive manufacturing for special application areas, able to manufacture sizable components on the 280 x 280 x 365 mm3 build space. Thanks to the machines’ powerful 700W lasers build times are reduced, enhancing productivity while maintaining quality. It is enabling Audi to manufacture on-demand, supplying spare parts as and when they are needed, rather than producing them in advance and putting them into storage. Simplifying logistics and warehousing, implementing an on-demand production approach brings both economical and sustainability benefits, in addition to the rapid prototyping and greater creative freedom 3D printing technology is renowned for.
Essen/Berlin – DB Schenker plans to deploy innovative solutions to meet the rising expectations of customers in the automotive sector. This will see the logistics service provider focus on the latest developments in the car industry, such as 3D printing to manufacture replacement parts, in addition to continuing its provision of long-established core services. Schenker wants to devote its energy to meeting the technological requirements of “additive production” and maintaining its progress in this field. The major benefit for customers takes the form of reduced warehousing costs, as spare parts are manufactured only when they are required. Faster production reduces delivery times. Similarly, DB Schenker plans to strengthen its market position by specializing in storing and transporting lithium batteries. Battery logistics entail extremely complex processes, as car batteries are classified as hazardous items requiring special transportation and storage.
“Our declared aim is to offer our customers around the globe the best logistics services in the aftermarket sector. Thanks to our vast experience in the automotive sector, our highly trained specialists and our dedicated innovation and quality programs, I am confident that we will achieve this aim,” says Stephan Allgeier, Vice President Vertical Market Automotive – Global Business Development Schenker AG.
Porsche has a huge supply of spare parts to keep its classic cars on the road, but it doesn’t have everything. Supplies of certain components run out, and often, it’s way too expensive to build a bunch more, especially for limited-production cars like the 959. That’s why Porsche Classic has turned to 3D printing to make limited numbers of certain spare parts.
Right now, Porsche is manufacturing nine spare parts using 3D printers, and it’s testing 20 more for production viability. The parts offered now include the clutch-release lever for the 959, a crank arm for the 964, and others.
Additive manufacturing is making serious inroads for MRO applications, but challenges may slow its adoption for some uses.
Aviation is a necessarily cautious industry, where new technologies are adopted only after exhaustive testing and certification processes. As such, additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is still in its infancy across the airframe and engine supply chains.
South Carolina-based 3D Systems, which produces additive manufacturing (AM) machines, manufactures only 12 such parts in current-production engines, and fewer than 1,000 on Boeing and Airbus aircraft. In comparison, the company prints more than 500,000 metal parts for other industries each year.
Create It Real, a Danish 3D printing company, has established a pilot project with the Green Ship of the Future consortium to explore printing on board ships and address Intellectual Property (IP) rights.
The project is part of the Green Ship of the Future’s ‘The maritime opportunity space of 3D print’ portfolio, and will specifically look into the streamlining of its supply chain by printing spare parts as and when necessary. It is being financed by the Danish Maritime Fund.
Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) announced Monday that it will make its first delivery of plastic parts produced using 3D printing technologies to its customers in the coming weeks, as part of a pilot programme.
The company is confident that these new technologies will soon play a significant role in the trucking industry.
More importantly, DTNA sees 3D printing as an opportunity to better serve its customers, particularly those customers in need of parts that have been difficult to provide through traditional supply chain models, such as those for older trucks or parts with very low or intermittent demand.
During this pilot phase, DTNA says it will release a controlled quantity of 3D printed parts and will invite feedback from customers and technicians that receive them.
When it comes to new technology, development usually proceeds incrementally. But progress continues to be made on many fronts. Here is a look at some critical new technologies, and how the ARC Advisory Group assesses their maturity.
3D Printing of Spare Parts
The opportunity to use 3D printing – more accurately labeled “additive manufacturing” – to print spare parts is widely recognized. In ARC’s conversations with industry insiders, we have come across many companies that have beta projects and are printing a small number of parts, but no company that is doing this at scale. There are a number of challenges associated with scaling additive manufacturing in the supply chain. However, the challenges are not insurmountable. New cloud-based solutions are very promising.
German car manufacturer Volkswagen is no stranger to additive manufacturing technologies, as the company has been exploring various applications for 3D printing in the automotive industry.
At its Volkswagen Autoeuropa plant in Portugal, for instance, the company reported producing as many as 1,000 parts using its fleet of Ultimaker 3D printers last year and has seen significant cost savings since implementing the technology.
A U.S. Marine Corps infantry battalion has become the first unit in the Corps to possess a 3D printer, using it to printing various pieces of equipment.
The U.S. Marines said the unit is the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment at Camp Lejuene, N.C., which has been testing how the system can be employed in various theoretical situations in the field.
“We’re at the tip of the iceberg as to what capabilities this can bring,” Capt. Justin Carrasco, the logistics officer for the battalion, said in a press release. “So right now, we’re identifying different 3D-printed parts that can support the warfighter in the expeditionary environment.”