Daimler Trucks North America has begun a pilot program for plastic parts produced using 3D printing technologies, which the manufacturer sees as soon playing a significant role in heavy-duty fleet maintenance. More importantly, management notes, DTNA views 3D printing as an opportunity to better serve customers, particularly those needing parts that have been difficult to provide through traditional supply chains due to truck age or very low or intermittent demand.
The pilot will have DTNA release a controlled quantity of 3D printed parts and invite customer or technician feedback. It will also collect performance data and assess potential future demand for 3D printed products. The manufacturer is teaming with the 3D printing service bureau, Technology House, which has 20-plus years of additive manufacturing experience. The companies have made the first parts available to customers with Selective Laser Sintering; the process refers to layering powder in a print chamber and then “selectively” melting a pattern with lasers before adding the next layer. The 3D printed parts have been validated to meet durability requirements and many will appear no different from conventional parts to the untrained eye.
Initial parts to be printed include nameplates, map pockets, and plastic covers. Along with other parts eligible for 3D printing, they are being stored in DTNA’s digital warehouse, allowing fabrication on demand with shorter than normal lead times. Without the need to maintain tooling, such parts will remain available to customers when needed.
On-demand 3D printing removes the need of holding physical inventory. Currently, the order process can take two to four weeks, but once the program is fully launched, DTNA anticipates parts shipment in days. The on-demand printing/manufacturing capability has the potential to increase uptime for customers who may otherwise experience long wait times for a hard-to-find part.
“Over the past five years, DTNA has made significant financial and intellectual investments in the supply chain network in order to deliver parts to our customers faster than ever before,” says Aftermarket Supply Chain General Manager Jay Johnson. “We realize that we must continue to innovate and invest in new processes, including 3D printing. [The launch] is only the beginning as we continue to develop this technology in our quest to be the benchmark for parts availability.”
World of Concrete Booth C5427