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3D printing in automotive. Toyota optimises assembly operations with Zortrax.

Posted on2023-04-11 by

Zortrax 3D printing helps Toyota reduce the cost and lead times of its assembly tooling.

3D Printing Industry explains this in its magazine article.

Japanese automotive multinational Toyota has revealed how adopting Zortrax 3D printing has helped optimize its vehicle assembly operations.

At its two Polish facilities in Walbrzych and Jelcz-Laskowice, Toyota has switched from CNC machining assembly jigs and fixtures to producing them using Zortrax M300 Plus systems on-demand. In doing so, the automotive stalwart has managed to reduce the costs and lead times behind manufacturing essential tools and spares, in a way that has optimized its production line performance. “We do not have to store spare parts, because we can 3D print them on demand. We can start a 3D printing process whenever such a need occurs,” explains Łukasz Kondek, the engineer responsible for 3D printing at Toyota. “We don’t have to wait until our tooling department (or an outsourcer) has the capacity to take care of our orders. 3D printing shortens waiting time for needed tooling from weeks to days, or sometimes even hours.”

Production process at Toyota. Foto Zortrax.

M-Series 3D printing at Zortrax

While Zortrax expanded into the resin 3D printing space in 2018 with the launch of the original Inkspire system, it’s best known as a manufacturer of Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) machines. On this side of its portfolio, the firm offers its Endureal, M200 Plus, M300 Dual, and M300 Plus 3D printers, each of which operates using its proprietary Layer Plastic Deposition Plus (LPD) extrusion technology.

Having installed the latter, Toyota has adopted the largest of the three, which thanks to its 300 x 300 x 300 mm build volume, is capable of creating huge parts in single prints. In practice, this means users don’t have to break large-format models down into separate pieces for assembly, something that can necessitate the integration of joints – weak spots that often impact long-term durability.

Part of a 3D printed engine cover on the build platform of a Toyota Zortrax M300 Plus. Photo via Zortrax.

Toyota’s Polish 3D printing exploits

Much of the work at Toyota’s factories in Poland revolves around mounting engines into the cars it assembles and then sells in Europe. Housed inside the facilities, in which over 3,000 employees now work on both Toyota petrol and hybrid vehicles, are dedicated 3D printing labs that have installed more than 100,000 zł ($23,000) worth of Zortrax equipment.

For years, engineers at Toyota’s Polish facility have deployed the Zortrax M300 Plus in jig, tooling, and spare part production applications. The parts currently 3D printed at the firm’s plant fall into four categories: positioning jigs, assembly jigs, assembly tools, and covers. Once printed, these are often combined with other components created using subtractive technologies to form integrated assemblies.

For instance, the gauges used in some Toyota vehicles feature a 3D printed body. However, as the pins on these instruments are continually in contact with a metal surface, they’re now CNC machined, in a way that improves their durability.

Additionally, Toyota’s assembly line jigs were previously manufactured by a separate department equipped with CNC machines. As a result, the company’s engineers had to design these tools around the constraints imposed on them by traditional manufacturing technologies. Since switching to 3D printing, however, Toyota has been able to slash its lead times and minimize assembly line disruption.

“One of the key benefits of implementing Zortrax 3D printers in manufacturing & industry is their tried and true, stable construction and ease of maintenance,” adds Michał Siemaszko, Head of R&D at Zortrax. “That means that global manufacturers like Toyota can rely on them while printing equipment critical to keeping the assembly line running.”

Toyota Factory. Foto Via Zortrax

Original article at 3D Printing Industry


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