Daimler Buses expands its 3D production and launches customising offers

Dec 4, 2019
Stuttgart / Neu-Ulm

With this innovative 3D printing technology, Daimler Buses is profiting from over 25 years of experience in 3D printing prototype construction which has now been transferred to series production with its high quality standards. Using 3D printing, Daimler's bus division can quickly, flexibly, economically and environmentally responsibly react to urgent customer requirements, in the case of rarely ordered components or special customer requests, for example. This includes covers and handles, extending as far as a diverse range of individual brackets. All that at any time, in Genuine Parts quality, and at favourable production costs: the 3D parts meet the production standards for injection-moulding and deep drawn parts as stipulated by Daimler AG. The production and delivery of a 3D printed part takes only a few days as opposed to several months. Also, this manufacturing technology produces considerably less waste and any unused material can be immediately used for the next 3D printed order.

Today, complex, non-safety-relevant 3D printed components, which until now were made as deep-drawn parts from several individual components requiring the availability of many expensive tools, are already being used in the bus interior. Furthermore, at present the "Centre of Competence for 3D Printing" is examining over 300,000 current bus spare parts in detail as to their suitability as 3D printed parts – around 200 of them have already been identified for 3D printing. Until now relevant 3D parts were produced by external service providers in accordance with specified quality standards.

In the next stage, Daimler Buses wants to continually expand on this business model, with the overall aim of being able to directly print 3D spare parts in-house for customers. The objective is to reorganise the value-added chain of the individual production areas and to derive a new business model from it. In addition to various necessary digitisation steps this includes the introduction of mass-series-ready approval processes and numerous product tests and the establishment of a "digital warehouse" with comprehensive 3D printing data which can be purchased and called up via the Omniplus On portal in the "commerce" section. Instead of simply purchasing spare parts as was previously the case, customers will buy a printing licence which they can then have implemented by the advanced printers in the Omniplus printing centres.

Furthermore, the "Centre of Competence" responsible for the project is working on optimising the generally powdered raw materials used for printing so that they also meet the requirements of future legal specifications. The 3D printed parts already completely meet the specifications of the tightened directive ECE R 118.03 for fire-proof interior materials used for passenger transportation and offer all the necessary certificates.

Not only plastic parts can be manufactured using the 3D printing process, but also metal parts with the necessary approval for use in vehicles. Some of these printed parts are sturdier than the conventional metal components as 3D printing is a welding process on a microscopic level. Theoretically the production of screws is now optimised because due to the design, the printed parts do not contain any unwanted bubbles and structurally are thus even more robust than conventional parts. First applications of these are already being tested and are proving very promising.

From mid-2020, Omniplus will also be able to supply 3D-printed personalised interior decor components for retrofitting in accordance with specific customer requests. It doesn't matter whether the parts are handle inserts, side panelling for coach seats, top-quality decorative parts for folding tables or eye-catching customer logos for the entrance area – all of these can be designed with their own decor and graphics and ordered with different surfaces (grained, smooth or other alternatives).

Processing will, in future, be carried out via the Omniplus eShop in the On portal, where customised data can be uploaded directly. The parts can then be simply replaced by the customer. The advantages of the new 3D printing technology thus become tangible.