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Volvo Trucks North America announced it is using 3D printing technology to produce tools and fixtures used in the manufacturing process at its New River Valley plant in Dublin, Va., where all of its trucks for the North American market are built.
“We can now say that 3D printing has become an integral component to our manufacturing processes and culture at NRV,” Franky Marchand, general manager of NRV, said in a company release.
Recently, VTNA used 3D printing technology to develop a one-piece diffuser used in the paint atomizer cleaning process, saving the company more than $1,000 per part, as well as eliminating the need for a multiple-piece component. Spare parts were also produced for the 20 diffusers that were created so that they can easily and quickly be replaced should wear occur, according to the Greensboro, N.C.-based company, a unit of Volvo Group.
There are now more than 500 manufacturing tools and fixtures in use on the NRV shop floor that are produced using 3D printing. All of these parts were printed at the Volvo Innovative Projects lab at the Dublin facility. In the state-of-the-art lab, VTNA primarily uses Selective Laser Sintering, a 3D printing technology that uses a laser to sinter powdered plastic material into a solid structure that is then rigorously tested and put into use in the manufacturing process.
Using SLS allows engineers to design parts by drawing the end product, putting it in the machine and leaving it to print in a matter of hours during a work day or even overnight, cutting down on the number of hours spent building parts through traditional tooling methods.
Additional examples of 3D printed parts in use at Volvo Trucks include:
- Roof seal gauges
- Fuse installation platens
- Drilling fixtures
- Brake piston gauges
- Vacuum drill ducts
- Brake valve fitting gauges
- Hood drilling fixtures
- Power steering adapter holders
- Luggage door gap gauges
- Luggage door pins
The use of this technology also increases flexibility in manufacturing, reducing the wait for new parts from vendors by simply printing them in-house — reducing inventory expenses as well by eliminating space needed to house traditionally produced tools. — Transport Topics