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Mercedes-Benz Trucks Pioneering 3D Parts

July 13, 2016

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)

Owners of Mercedes-Benz trucks will soon be installing genuine plastic replacement parts that have been produced on a 3D printer.

Daimler announced that Mercedes-Benz Trucks is using the latest 3D printing processes for plastic spare parts. The spare parts can be manufactured to order and will typically sent to the customer within a matter of days.

With the use of 3D printing technology as an innovative state-of-the-art production process in after-sales, Mercedes-Benz said it is taking on the pioneering role and technological leadership among global truck producers.

So far, 30 genuine spare parts are available to be ordered and supplied at the push of a button from the 3D printer, in any quantity. This is especially helpful for older models, in some cases even decades old, for which manufacturing spare parts the traditional way isn’t cost-effective.

"In keeping with our brand promise 'Trucks you can trust', we set the same benchmarks for reliability, functionality, durability and economy for spare parts from 3D production as for parts from conventional production," said Andreas Deuschle, head of marketing & operations in the Customer Services & Parts Mercedes-Benz Trucks Division. "However, 3D offers many more possibilities; this is why we shall be rapidly extending the production of 3D printed parts."

Daimler notes that it has extensive experience with 3D printing because it uses the process to create prototype parts — more than 100,000 of them a year.

Available spare parts consist of high-quality plastic components such as covers, spacers, spring caps, air and cable ducts, clamps, mountings, etc.

The "printed" spare parts are created with state-of-the-art 3D printers based on the Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) printing process. According to Wikipedia, SLS is an additive manufacturing technique that uses a laser as the power source to sinter powdered material, aiming the laser automatically at points in space defined by a 3D model, binding the material together to create a solid structure.

The process parameters have been optimized and determined by the Daimler research and development divisions.

Every 3D spare part can be ordered by the customer using a special part number.

The environmentally friendly and resource-conserving 3D printing process is playing a pioneering role in the aftermarket, according to Daimler. The challenge in the parts business lies in securing supply even for model series that are no longer produced. This means that the range also includes spare parts for which there is only a low demand in small quantities every year. Producing them is thus increasingly uneconomical for suppliers – production facilities and tools often have to be retained and maintained for years. With the 3D printing process, these challenges are a thing of the past. Every 3D spare part is available on demand at short notice all over the world.

The printing itself can take place within a very short time following receipt of the design definition and order, considerably speeding up the production and supply of spare parts. As spare and retrofit parts can still easily be "reprinted" even after a long time using the data stored and supplied without any complex stocking, no warehousing is required either. At the same time the burden on costs, resources and the environment is also eased, as there are no material surpluses to be disposed of.

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