Maximising Production Efficiency
3D Printed Assembly Portfolio by Volkswagen Autoeuropa - High-quality, low-cost tools, jigs and fixtures
Interest in 3D printing used to largely focus on functional prototyping and component creation. However, for manufacturing businesses, its true value lies in another important area: 3D printed tool production, jigs, fixtures and other manufacturing aids.
Traditional manufacturing rules don’t apply, as the 3D printing technology can build complex geometries with cavities, undercuts, and overhangs. A previously impractical jig or fixture design is now a viable option; and function and performance become the main drivers of design, not cost or time.
Machining a manufacturing tool takes several weeks, especially if there are multiple designs or assemblies. Printing parts on demand in-house accelerates the build and delivery process. Manufacturers using Ultimaker 3D printers often see a 40% to 90% lead time reduction.
No tooling or machining is required to build a model. If an issue with a current tool is identified or an enhancement suggested, building a replacement simply involves revising the CAD file and printing the updated part. The cost is far less than traditional manufacturing methods, and results can be tailored to match exact requirements. Function and design can be verified with the actual part and new iterations can be made within hours without cost penalties.
“Now we have way more tools, with better fit and for far less money. Just by printing a handful of tools we can get back the initial investment.”
—Luis Pascoa, Pilot Plant Manager at Volkswagen Autoeuropa
The Ultimaker 3D printed tool has enhanced design performance. Tool lead time is 54 days less and costs are decreased by €2,813. The tool is ergonomically pleasing, tough, and lightweight.
Traditionally, it would have been precision machined in metal, with the associated costs, time, weight and storage. In some cases, manufacturers often managed without them - to the detriment of their process control.
Volkswagen Autoeuropa currently produces the Volkswagen Sharan (53,423 units), Scirocco (16,251 units), Eos (4,559 units) and the Seat Alhambra (27,925 units).
Before working with Ultimaker, Volkswagen were using 3rd party suppliers to manufacture their tools. This meant more paperwork, quotations and the adoption of a trial-and-error approach, all of which were holding up the tool manufacturing process – at additional cost.
Volkswagen Autoeuropa introduced Ultimaker 3D printers in 2014. Within 2 years, they increased savings from 70% up to 95% in assembly tooling costs. Ultimaker enabled Volkswagen to test solutions without having to contact suppliers, saving an average of 8 weeks.
Results and ROI
After having validated the concept in 2014, Volkswagen Autoeuropa now has 7 Ultimaker 3D printers in operation, and 93% of all externally manufactured tools are created in-house. External parts only comprise 7% of their total tool production and the ROI is covered after printing just a handful of tools.
“3D printing developments result in a 91% cost reduction and 95% reduction in tool development time. Ultimaker makes it possible to improve tool ergonomics by 28% and the final product quality by 35%.” — Helena Trincheiras, Pilot Plant Engineer at Volkswagen Autoeuropa
Ultimaker’s integrated ecosystem of hardware, software and materials means production can commence as soon as the machines are installed on-site.
1. Review Production Processes
Production engineers, CAD designers and technicians review production and quality processes. They brainstorm potential opportunities for 3D printed jigs, fixtures and gauges.
2. Shop Floor Operator Involvement
Shop floor operators who routinely use the equipment become actively involved. Their input is invaluable, based on their daily operation. Positioning 3D printers next to the assembly line means that operator feedback, verification and review can be implemented much faster.
3. Design to Manufacture
Once the design is conceptualized, a CAD file is prepared, sliced in Cura, then sent to the 3D printers to run overnight. Next morning, the new set of tools is ready for use.
4. Installation and Revision
Additive manufacturing allows for a “just-in-time inventory”, where digital design files are stored and replacement parts modified and printed when required. Incorporating 3D printers with production floor operations improves quality, ergonomics and uptime; saving money and increasing efficiency.
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