Mercedes-Benz has announced that it has begun commercial use of 3D printing techniques in metal for line items used in its trucks division. The first official product of the process was a thermostat cover from older Unimog and truck models.

The company intends to use the process top address the limited run requirements of older vehicle spares – as well as cost effective production of small batches. All these parts are output directly from digital records and save cost on tooling and dies as well.

“With the introduction of 3D metal printing technology, Mercedes-Benz Trucks is reasserting its pioneering role among global commercial vehicle manufacturers,” says Andreas Deuschle, Head of Marketing & Operations in Customer Services & Parts at Mercedes-Benz Trucks. “We ensure the same functionality, reliability, durability and cost-effectiveness with 3D metal parts as we do with conventionally produced parts.”

The company says that it began using the process of 3D printing to address part requirements a year ago and has now transitioned from just plastic parts to metal parts that meet the stringent quality control requirements of the brand.

One of the additional benefits of the method is a saving in inventory costs as well as transportation costs if the manufacturing station is set up in remote sites that serve supply depots.

Mercedes-Benz Trucks is the worldwide technological leader in the use of 3D printed components, and will in future also produce complex metallic spare and special parts in first-class quality. The view into the interior of the 3D printer shows the first printed thermostat covers, which are still connected to the work platform. After removal of the platform and support structure, the aluminium/silicon metallic powder is removed by suction, sieved, cleaned and ecologically fed back into the recycling system.

The company intends to use the technique to make peripheral engine parts made of metal, in-engine parts and also parts in cooling systems, transmissions, axles or chassis. “The availability of spare parts during a workshop visit is essential for our customers – no matter how old the truck is, or where it is located. The particular added value of 3D printing technology is that it considerably increases speed and flexibility, especially when producing spare and special parts. This gives us completely new possibilities for offering our customers spare parts rapidly and at attractive prices, even long after series production has ceased,” Deuschle concludes.

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