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EOS: More Economical Production with 3D-Printed Spare Parts 3D-Printed Spare Parts Are More Profitable

Editor: Alexander Stark

The managers of the vehicle manufacturer Daimler AG are convinced that the additive production of spare parts is particularly future-oriented, efficient and economical. Specialists from Additive Minds provide the necessary know-how to the bus manufacturer within the group, EvoBus GmbH.

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High quality: Additively manufactured spare parts meet the demanding requirements that premium brands like Daimler Buses place on visible components.
High quality: Additively manufactured spare parts meet the demanding requirements that premium brands like Daimler Buses place on visible components.
(Source: EOS, Daimler Buses)

EvoBus GmbH, a subsidiary of the Daimler Group, is one of the world's leading manufacturers of buses weighing more than 8000 kg. The company intends to maintain and further expand its market position in the face of increasing competition. At the same time, the specialists and managers intend to increase profitability and innovative strength in the future. This applies in particular to the Customer Services & Parts (CSP) division. It manufactures and supplies spare parts all over the world.

Expensive Overproduction

The Customer Services & Parts (CSP) division of EvoBus GmbH is confronted with rising costs for logistics and the stocking of spare parts. In addition, delivery times are frequently unacceptably long. The specialists consider the reason for this in an ever broader portfolio. They are committed to providing reliable spare parts even more than 15 years after the end of series production of individual vehicle variants and models. As a result, EvoBus CSP manages more than 300,000 active spare parts. Many of them are in stock. The experts note, their number is growing rapidly. Minimum quantities in production and corresponding obligations to take over the respective order lots often cause overproduction. Often 15, 20 or even 100 components have to be accepted and stocked. Usually, however, only one is needed.

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3D Printing as an Opportunity

This situation can hardly be improved with conventional production processes. However, the experts for CSP at EvoBus consider additive manufacturing as an optimal opportunity. It allows spare parts to be produced much more flexibly. “By integrating 3D printing into our CSP business model, we hope to reduce the rising inventory and tool costs caused by the increase in the number of different bus spare parts. At the same time we want to further improve our reports performance to our end customers," Ralf Anderhofstadt reports. He is project manager for 3D printing in the field of CSP at the bus manufacturer.

Analyzing the Status Quo

To implement additive manufacturing, the EvoBus production engineers first needed to acquire comprehensive expertise. They got the know-how from the specialists of Additive Minds. The latter are among the world's largest teams with outstanding expertise in additive manufacturing. They gathered extensive experience in more than 250 cross-industry additive manufacturing projects worldwide. The experts supported the bus manufacturer with a multitude of analyses and training sessions. This included workshops and off-site support. The experts from Additive Minds first looked at the entire process and supply chain for spare parts. From the data they acquired, they determined the potential that could be realized to reduce costs and efforts with the aid of additive manufacturing. The close cooperation resulted in the insight that additive production could be implemented within a few months.

Workshops Provide Expert Knowledge

In a workshop, the specialists of both companies dealt with the systematic selection of suitable components for additive manufacturing. Using the "Part Screening and Selection" methodology developed by Additive Minds, they identified more than 2000 components used by the bus manufacturer EvoBus. Based on this result, they first selected some workpieces made of metal and plastics. However, there were no digital blueprints for many spare parts available. For this reason, the specialists jointly analyzed the possibilities of digitizing components using reverse engineering. This was done by external service providers. However, there were also additional demands considering production technology. These demands concerned, for example, the possibility to use additive manufacturing for the production of component surfaces for vehicle interiors in accordance with the specifications for haptics and optics. The continuous cooperation between Additive Minds and EvoBus, helped the production engineers in finding suitable processes. They also developed a material for additive manufacturing that meets the strict fire protection regulations for vehicle construction.

Pilot Production Proves Concept

As early as 2017, the EOSexperts were already producing first components for the bus manufacturer. This was faster than expected by all parties involved. “By working together with Additive Minds on the CSP 3D printing project, we were able to accelerate our project all the way to the technical and economic proof of concept because we were able to focus on and tackle a wide variety of topics," summarizes Ralf Anderhofstadt.

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The experts at the bus manufacturer are currently working on providing their end customers with additively manufactured components. Initially, these components are to be produced centrally. In the future, 3D printers will also be used by external organizations. Thus, industrial 3D printing can contribute to the bus manufacturer being able to supply spare parts much faster but also in a profitable and economical way. In addition, additive manufacturing technology improves the company's innovative strength.

Additional Functions through 3D Printing

In the future, the portfolio of additive manufacturing will be expanded to include further plastic and metal spare parts. In addition, only component drawings available as analog data will be digitized. The entire range of spare parts is to be provided much more efficiently in this way. End customers will also benefit from this strategy. They are able to minimize unproductive downtimes of their buses. Furthermore, additive manufacturing makes it possible to integrate various functions into complex components. In this way, the demands and wishes of bus operators, for example regarding additional comfort, can be met with the help of spare parts.

This article was first published by Schweizer MaschinenMarkt.

Original by Konrad Mücke / Translation by Alexander Stark