The company incorporated Stratasys additive manufacturing technology at its engine production facility in Lyon, France. According to Pierre Jenny, manufacturing director at Volvo Trucks, the company has reduced the time taken to design and manufacture certain tools traditionally produced in metal, from 36 days to just two days in thermoplastic ABSplus using the Stratasys Fortus 3D Production System.
As well as gains in time, improving the production plant's overall efficiency and flexibility, delivery times are upheld and the use of additive manufacturing has saved costs by reducing wastage.
Jenny estimates that, where customised or small quantities of tools are required, the cost of 3D printing ABS thermoplastic items is – in some cases – as little as 1€/cm3, compared to up to 100€/cm3 if making the same item from metal.
In three months, Volvo Trucks has 3D printed more than 30 different production tools, including different durable yet lightweight clamps, jigs, supports and even ergonomically-designed tool holders.
According to Jean-Marc Robin, technical manager, Volvo Trucks, developing production tools using additive manufacturing also enables the equipment design team to be far more responsive, while avoiding possible wastage in the event of last minute design changes before tools are made.
"With a 3D printed part, we can simply alter the design specifications and re-3D print the piece in a few hours," he says.