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Daimler Buses Revolutionize their Supply Chain with 3D Printed Spare Part Production

By <a href="https://mfg.trimech.com/author/trimech/" target="_self">TriMech Marketing</a>

By TriMech Marketing

Posted on February 15, 2024

In the automotive industry, 3D printing is a great opportunity to revolutionize the supply chain, replace high costs and long delivery times with a sustainable and more economical solution. Learn how Daimler have adopted 3D printed spare part production and the benefits it provides them.

About Daimler Buses

Daimler was one of the first companies to really invest in Additive Manufacturing, not only focusing on plastics but also on metal 3D printing. Within Daimler Buses, a Daimler subsidiary, an initial project for 3D printed spare parts was set up in 2016.

The project was to be carried out by a specially founded department, the Center of Competence 3D printing, headed by Ralf Anderhofstadt. In the newly created CSP (Customer Services and Parts) project, 3D printing, in this case Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) was to be tested for use in daily production for visible spare parts. The idea behind it? Nothing less than the reinvention of the supply chain for the after sales business and to improve the global spare part production.

In several workshops and with the support of various partners such as Additive Minds, EOS and DyeMansion, the entire supply chain was defined and evaluated. The result: An analysis that showed how 3D printing could be used to its full extent. It showed the maximum added value and how quality and scalability barriers presented by traditional manufacturing methods could be eliminated.

“Switching to 3D printing reduces costs, lead times and the complexity of the supply chain. Therefore it helps us to react faster to the needs of their customers.”

— Daniel Kluth, Category Buyer 3D Printing, Daimler Buses

The Challenge: Achieving a part quality that can compete with injection molded parts

In order to understand the complexity of the topic, one only has to bear in mind that there are well over 300,000 different spare parts for Daimler buses and trucks. This leads to a very complex, long-term and expensive supply chain. Here Daimler buses realized a need for reinvention – for a decentral, on-demand production that allows small volumes.

As one can imagine, a company like Daimler has particularly high demands on quality, especially regarding their final product. The surface quality and color of the parts had to be in no way inferior to the spare parts produced with injection molding. In the first attempts to use industrial 3D-printing, it turned out that the reproduction of these very parameters was difficult. The production of the parts worked well, thanks to the precision of the EOS machinery, which delivered unmatched quality, especially for complex geometries. But coming from the production those parts were white and the surface finish rough. So there were two main challenges for

Daimler Buses: On the one hand reaching the required glossy finish of the injection molded counterparts without losing textures. And on the other hand finding a coloring technology that enables reproducible coloring results and the development of corporate colors, like in this case different grey shades. It was obvious, that the printed parts were going to need several stages of post-processing.

Daimler spare parts

Daimler spare parts

The Solution: A reproducible and traceable post-processing technology meeting the highest quality requirements

After consultations, the premium automotive manufacturer found the solution in the DyeMansion Print-to-Product workflow, consisting of the blasting systems Powershot C and Powershot S and the DM60, that delivers color to white polyamide parts. Through the treatment with the PolyShot Surfacing in the Powershot S the SLS parts get their injection molded like surface. The process does not affect the part structure or geometry and saves the leather structure of the parts.

“We can now produce spare parts at scale using on-demand, 3D-printing anf finishing processes that meet our technical specifications and surface quality standards.”

— Ralf Anderhofstadt, Manager Center of Competence 3D-Printing, Daimler Buses

Daimler Buses used the DyeMansion Color Matching to develop three special Daimler Buses grey shades based on the injection molded parts, which are applied to the parts with the DeepDye coloring on the DM60. In contrast to spray painting, the paint is absorbed into the component and does not form another layer on the part, which also contributes to preserving the textures. The DyeMansion technology is used on-site at the Center of Competence 3D printing at Daimler Buses.

Daimler part variation

Left: 3D-printed raw part(EOS PA2200). Center: 3D printed part, finished with the DyeMansion PolyShot Surfacing and DeepDye Coloring. Right: original, injection molded spare part (SETRA Cover)

The Benefits of 3D Printed Spare Parts

  • Sustainable On-Demand Production
  • Customized Corporate Daimler Colors
  • Texture Preservation
  • Reproducible & Traceable Processes

Sustainable On-Demand Production

Through the successful implementation of industrial 3D-printing, spare parts can now be produced on-demand when and where they are needed. No high-volume overproduction, tooling costs or big stocks are required. This does not only lead to a way more sustainable supply chain, but also reduces storage costs and shortens lead times.

Customized Corporate Daimler Colors

Using the original injection molded parts as color samples for the DM Color Matching, three color shades of grey were developed that achieve the same color values on EOS PA2200 as on the original parts. After the development, the individual recipes are stored and can be retrieved and ordered again and again. This is possible with every color and every physical color sample, which can be plastics, fabrics, paper or even human skin.

Daimler part

Daimler part

Texture Preservation

For Automotive interior parts fine textures, such as leather imitations, are pretty popular. Achieving these structures with a 3D printing software is no longer a problem, but preserving them is not easy. Abrasive surfacing processes like tumbling  or coloring techniques like spray painting destroy these textures by either removing or applying material to the parts.

With the DyeMansion Polyshot Surfacing, the open pores of the polymer parts are homogenized with a special blasting media. This helps to turn the spare parts into long-lasting products, without losing the parts’ texture. DeepDye Coloring works completely independently of the parts‘ geometry. In the chemical reaction between material and dye, the color is drawn into the material instead of forming another layer.

Reproducible & Traceable Processes

The DeepDye Coloring works with color cartridges, that can be easily inserted in the DM60. With the DeepDye Coloring, all process parameters are traceable. All defined parameters (such as batch size, color recipe or surface finish) are stored on the color cartridge using RFID chips. The corresponding reader on the DM60 reads out this information and sets the machine accordingly for the coloring. The cartridge system and the DM60 ensure stable and reproducible processes. Once the process parameters have been defined, they can be reproduced consistently wherever DyeMansion technology is used.

What’s Next

After the successful implementation of the technologies, it is now time to expand the project. This includes the expansion of the Center of Competence 3D-printing, the testing and production of further spare parts as well as the certification of the process with service providers in order to be able to produce higher quantities. Also the constant exchange with DyeMansion for process development and Color Matching, application consulting and new technologies will be continued.

Article by <a href="https://mfg.trimech.com/author/trimech/" target="_self">TriMech Marketing</a>

Article by TriMech Marketing

TriMech provides thousands of engineering teams with 3D design and rapid prototyping solutions that work hand-in-hand, from sketch to manufacturing. InterPro became a part of TriMech Solutions LLC in 2021.