Mercedes Embraces a 3-D Printing Model for Metal Parts
The 3-D printed part is a thermostat cover that fits older truck and Unimog models. And according to Mercedes, it’s the first 3-D printed metal part to be offered to consumers. From here, Mercedes plans to use 3-D printing to make metal parts for engines, cooling systems, transmissions, axles, and even in the chassis.
“Especially when they have complex structures, 3-D printed metal parts in small numbers can be produced cost-effectively as infrequently requested replacement parts, special parts and for small and classic model series,” the automaker said in a statement.
This isn’t Mercedes’ first foray into 3-D printing, however. It began offering 3-D printed plastic parts a year ago.
“We ensure the same functionality, reliability, durability, and cost-effectiveness with 3-D metal parts as we do with conventionally produced parts,” said Andreas Deuschle, head of marketing and operations in customer services and parts for Mercedes-Benz Trucks, in a statement.
According to Mercedes, the advantage of printing these parts instead of casting them is that they can be made “‘at the touch of a button’ with any geometry and in any numbers.” Production also doesn’t require expensive development work or specialized tools.
And while 3-D metal printing has only just gotten to the point it can sell a single component, Mercedes sees this process completely changing the way it supplies parts for older, out-of-production vehicles.
“The availability of spare parts during a workshop visit is essential for our customers—no matter how old the truck is, or where it is located. The particular added value of 3-D printing technology is that it considerably increases speed and flexibility, especially when producing spare and special parts. This gives us completely new possibilities for offering our customers spare parts rapidly and at attractive prices, even long after series production has ceased,” Deuschle said.