Volvo Trucks North America is using 3D printing technology to produce tools and fixtures used in the manufacturing process at its New River Valley (NRV) plant in Dublin, Virginia, where all of its trucks for the North American market are built.
“Volvo Trucks began exploring the use of 3D technology with a prototype approach, identifying opportunities to improve quality in the manufacturing process,” said Franky Marchand, vice president and general manager of NRV. “Several years later, we can now say that 3D printing has become an integral component to our manufacturing processes and culture at NRV.”
After years of internal exploration with 3D printing technology and fine-tuning, there are now more than 500 manufacturing tools and fixtures in use on the NRV shop floor produced using 3D printing. All of these parts were printed at the Volvo Innovative Projects lab at the Dublin facility. In the lab, Volvo Trucks primarily uses Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), a 3D printing technology that uses a laser to sinter powdered plastic material into a solid structure that is then rigorously tested and put into use in the manufacturing process.
Using SLS allows engineers to design parts by drawing the end product, putting it in the machine and leaving it to print in hours. Volvo Trucks used 3D printing technology to develop a one-piece diffuser used in the paint atomizer cleaning process, saving the company more than $1,000 per part, it says.
Additional examples of 3D printed parts in use at Volvo Trucks include: roof seal gauges, fuse installation platens, drilling fixtures, brake piston gauges, vacuum drill ducts, brake valve fitting gauges, hood drilling fixtures, power steering adapter holders, luggage door gap gauges and luggage door pins.