Tina Eufinger, business development, Siemens Mobility Division, explained: “For small volume part demands from customers, we would store excess parts until they were used, discarded or became too outdated to use. With the Fortus 900mc, we can now create a design that is 100% customised to specific requirements and optimised several times before it is 3D printed.”
The 3D printed parts Siemens are producing include customised armrests for the driver seat and housing covers for the ‘coupler’, that links two tram carriages. To meet the German rail industry’s criteria for production parts, Siemens is using a flame, smoke and toxicity (FST) compliant synthetic thermoplastic 3D printing material from Stratasys to align with necessary fire protection requirements. This enables Siemens to employ the lightweight, durable, 3D printed parts directly into the trams.
Siemens Mobility Division has also expanded its business branch online, with customers able to order customised 3D printed parts. Customers who require replacement parts or who need to make changes to existing ones can go online and request the desired part, which is subsequently 3D printed and delivered to them.
3D Printing is an excellent solution for the following reasons:
Does not require injection tooling, saving >$20k and up to 8 weeks lead-time.
Provides the ability to build a few units, test, update the design and repeat to validate the feature set and market. Anybody who has built injection tooling knows that changes are not smiled upon.
Piece cost scales linearly with volume, as it is not necessary to amortize the cost of tooling into the quantity of parts.
Parts can often be printed nearby the entrepreneur, allowing for high bandwidth communications and shortened lead-times.
The challenges that can arise from 3D printing include:
Creating robust isotropic components that share the same functional characteristics of injection molded parts.
Acceptable surface finish.
Part-to-part consistency and quality assurance.
Longer times to print than mold.
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Looking to the future, as the 3D technologies continue to evolve in improved functional performance and lower cost, there are many exciting possibilities for 3D printed parts that are not possible with injection molding:
Continuously variable material properties, such as material and durometer.
Undercuts: Ability to create non-injectable or machinable geometry.
3D printed injection-molding tools that capture the speed of 3D printing and the high volume cost advantages of injection. This will require fine resolution build layers so that the printed tools do not need to be touched with CNC to achieve the desired surface finish.
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