3D printing in the automotive sector: 150,000 € savings
November 22, 2017 in Case study
3D printing in the automotive sector
What do Formula 1 racing cars, Marine One and the President’s plane, have in common? Many of its components and features have been designed in Kapfenberg, a quiet town in the Austrian Alps. 3D printing in the automotive sector knows no geographical limitations.
Pankl Racing Systems specializes in developing and manufacturing engine and drivetrain components for racing cars, high-performance vehicles, and aerospace applications with more than 1,500 employees, and worldwide subsidiaries in Austria, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, Slovakia, and Japan.
Every single part that Pankl makes requires a series of custom jigs, fixtures and other tooling that are designed and fabricated specifically for that part. The result is a proliferation of custom tools, adding significant cost and complexity to the manufacturing process.
To fulfill tight production deadlines, process engineer Christian Joebstl and his team introduced stereolithography (SLA) 3D printing to produce custom jigs and other low-volume parts directly for their manufacturing line in the company’s new €36 million state-of-the-art manufacturing facility.
While 3D printing was initially met with skepticism, it turned out to be an ideal substitute to machining a variety of these tools, surprising even Pankl’s demanding engineers. In one case, it reduced lead time for jigs by 90 percent—from two to three weeks to less than a day—and decreased costs by 80-90 percent, leading to €150,000 in savings.
Savings in the automotive sector through 3D printing
It has to be said that Pankl has been in business for over 30 years. Until less than a year ago, they had no 3D printers. One of the company’s employees was asked for a custom cover to conceal certain areas of blast force. In the past, they used to buy parts of this type from an external supplier and one of these tools cost around 1,200 euros. Everyone thought there should be another way.
Christian Joebs, familiar with 3D printing since his training, began searching and found the 3D Form 2 printer after reading some online reviews. He says:“My colleagues now understand the value of 3D printing, but at first they were extremely skeptical. They thought that such an economical 3D printing was not possible.
He continues,“In our business, we expect that good equipment is inevitably also expensive. Most of our machinery starts at €100,000 and goes well beyond that. When my colleagues saw that the Form 2 only costs about €3,900, they asked me, “Why should we buy a toy?”.
The engineer admits:”We ordered more custom sample parts for testing, and we realized that 3D printed parts could do it. Holes and length tolerances were within ±0.1 mm. I studied the material costs for my depreciation calculation and discovered that a 3D shot blasting tool kit cost only 45 euros. I summarized it in a presentation to the board of directors and took the parties to the initial meeting of the new gearbox plant. They were finally convinced and we decided to buy our first Form 2, which was soon expanded to three units.
For more information, read another article on 3D printing in the automotive industry.
3D printing and savings numbers in the automotive industry. How to produce components in a few days instead of three weeks.
With 3D printing, you can simply take the same layout, send it to the printer and have the finished part ready for the next morning. This allows time to check the part on the production line and make the necessary changes. It has also simplified the design process, offering freedom of creation to produce masks in any form. In conventional CNC milling or turning, you are forced to design machinable parts and each additional curve, hole or chamfer adds complexity to the process. This is not the case for 3D printing in the automotive sector
The engineer adds:”Using a single Form 2, we can print a single jig in 5-9.5 hours, and by running our three machines we can produce around 40 jigs in a week.
A simple machined jig costs between 40 and 50 €, but more complex parts can cost up to 300 €. 3D printing reduces these direct costs to 8.5-25 € and dramatically reduces overall design, acquisition and storage costs by more than 90%. Taking into account that we will have to produce more than 1,000 templates during production, 3D printing will help the company save more than €150,000.