Daimler Trucks launches 3D-printed parts

11 December 2017

Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) announced it is set to make its first delivery of plastic parts made using 3D printing to customers in the coming weeks as part of a pilot programme.

DTNA said using 3D printing to produce parts was an opportunity to better serve customers, particularly those in need of parts that have been difficult to provide through traditional supply chain models, like parts for older truck or components with low or intermittent demand. 

It added that it is confident that the new technology would soon play a significant role in the vehicle manufacturing industry.

Jay Johnson, general manage, aftermarket supply chain at DTNA, said the move was part of DTNA’s plan to modernise services and lead the market in availability of parts.

“The addition of three new parts distribution centres coupled with dedicated delivery service puts us on the path towards achieving this objective,” he said.

“We realise that we must continue to innovate and we will invest in new processes including 3D printing. 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.” 

During the pilot phase, DTNA said it would release a controlled quantity of 3D printed parts and invite feedback from customers and technicians that receive them, as well as collecting data on performance and assessing future potential demand for printed parts.

DTNA partnered with 3D printing service firm The Technology House to produce the parts using Selective Laser Sintering— a process that builds parts layer by layer using powdered plastic and a high-powered laser. 

The technique is used over traditional 3D printing techniques because it imparts strength and integrity to the part.

DTNA said the 3D-printed parts have been validated to meet durability requirements and many will appear no different to the untrained eye. During the pilot phase, parts to be printed include nameplates, map pockets and plastic covers.

Johnson said parts eligible for 3D printing are also being stored in DTNA’s digital warehouse, allowing a part to be printed on demand with shorter lead times. 

He added that on-demand printing would also remove the need to hold physical inventory.

Currently, the order process takes two to four weeks, but once the programme is fully launched, parts will be able to be shipped in just a few days, potentially increasing uptime for customers who might otherwise experience long wait times for hard-to-find parts, according to the company.

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