Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) announced this week it will make its first delivery of plastic parts produced using 3D printing technologies to customers in the coming weeks as part of a pilot program.
DTNA sees 3D printing as an answer for those customers in need of parts that have been difficult to get through traditional supply chain models, such as those for older trucks, or parts with very low or intermittent demand.
During the pilot phase, DTNA will release a controlled quantity of 3D printed parts and will invite feedback from customers and technicians that receive them. DTNA will also collect data on the parts performance as well as assess potential future demand for 3D printed parts.
DTNA has partnered with echnology House, a 3D printing service bureau, which has over 20 years of experience in additive manufacturing. The first parts available will be made using Selective Laser Sintering. The SLS process refers to layering powder in a print chamber, then selectively melting a pattern with lasers before adding the next layer. DTNA says the 3D printed parts are validated to meet durability requirements and most will appear no different to the untrained eye. During the pilot phase, parts to be printed include nameplates, map pockets, and plastic covers.
Digital files for each 3D-printable part will be archived in DTNA's 'warehouse'. Instead of maintaining a large inventory of parts or going through the traditional tooling process for an individual part, DTNA will be able to call up a file and print the selected part on demand. The company says this will cut the current lead time of 2-3 weeks to just a few days. Older, hard to find parts will also be easier to replace as the company's program grows.
DTNA hasn't said which brands or vehicle models will be included in the pilot program yet. “Over the past 5 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. The addition of three new PDCs coupled with dedicated delivery service puts us on the path toward achieving this objective. We realize that we must continue to innovate and we will invest in new processes including 3D printing. What DTNA is launching today with 3D printing is only the beginning as we continue to develop this technology in our quest to be the benchmark for parts availability,” said Jay Johnson, general manager, aftermarket supply chain, Daimler Trucks North America.