Michigan-based Ford Motor Company is a big fan of 3D printing, and even piloted Stratasys’ Infinite Build 3D printer. In order to meet customer demand for the new models of its Lincoln Navigator and Ford Expedition SUVs, the company is increasing production of the vehicles by 25%, and using advanced manufacturing technologies including 3D printing to do it.
A data analytics hub features seven big-screen TVs that provide plant officials with minute-by-minute updates on the production line; these updates also help workers be proactive and efficient when it comes to pending parts shortages, so they can visit the plant’s huge spare parts “vending machine” to quickly find the part they need and keep inventory where it’s supposed to be.
The Kentucky Truck Plant also installed a new 3D printer, so workers can inexpensively print individual parts for tools that help keep the plant’s efficiency up. While manufacturing a prototype part with traditional methods can cost over $250,000 just in tooling, and take 8 to 16 weeks, it only costs up to a few thousand dollars, and just hours or days, to 3D print the part.
he division’s range includes roughly 52,000 parts; if the stock for one goes down, the company reproduces it with original tools, though new tools may be required for larger quantities. Unfortunately, using new tools to make small production batches of limited supply parts would be inefficient. Porsche Classic evaluated different manufacturing processes, and realized that 3D printing is a good economic alternative for small batch production of unavailable parts, like the clutch release lever on the rare Porsche 959.
This component is made from grey cast iron, and is typically in low demand, as less than 300 of the super sports cars were produced. Porsche used SLM 3D printing to make the release lever, which passed a pressure test with a load of nearly three metric tons, a tomographic examination for internal faults, and several driving tests.
Thanks to the consistently positive results that 3D printing offers, Porsche is also using 3D printing to manufacture eight other parts, with SLM put to use for steel and light metal, and SLS 3D printers used to create plastic components. All of the 3D printed parts meet, and even exceed, the visual and technical requirements of the original specs, and the company is now investigating if the technology would be a good option for producing 20 other parts.
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“My racing team is committed to adopting the latest technologies and working with disruptive companies like Immensa to drive innovation. We are pleased to have set a new benchmark by using 3D printed parts in a racing car for the first time here in the region as far as I am aware,” said Hussain.
“This technology provided us with a great turnaround time for parts that we were not able to source locally and others that were produced to a much higher quality than the original parts.”
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