Volvo Construction Equipment digs ups cost-savings with 3D printed prototypes.
Improving large engines.
VCE management tasked the engineering team with cutting development costs and reducing the lead time on large engine projects from 36 to 24 months. Engineers felt 3D printing would be a good benchmark to determine if printed parts could withstand functional testing. Water pump housing prototypes must be able to survive the heat and high pressure of the engine compartment. As a step toward achieving this goal, the company utilized a Stratasys Objet Eden260V™ 3D printer from its Shippensburg, Pennsylvania site.
VCE engineers 3D printed the housing in transparent material, also called FullCure® 720. They mounted nine threaded inserts into the part and sealed the housing with epoxy resin and hardener to prevent leakage. They fastened the jacket to a water pump and then mounted the pump to an A30G. Engineers took water flow and pressure measurements from both the existing water pump and the water pump with the new housing. The newly designed housing passed the tests.
This project demonstrated the feasibility of integrating 3D printing into VCE’s engine development process. Each new generation of engines typically requires 15 to 20 new cast metal parts and 12 to 15 profile molded hoses for each engine. 3D printed prototypes can be produced in about 1/10th of the time required to produce prototypes using traditional manufacturing methods, which adds up to hefty time savings.
“3D printing will make it possible to build mock-up engine components so the platform and manufacturing teams can provide feedback at a much earlier stage in the development process,” said Jeff Hartman, Product Designer for VCE. “This should reduce risk of errors and the need for changes at all stages of the development process.”
3D printing also provides substantial cost savings. Tooling for metal prototypes cost between $4,500 and $18,000, but 3D printed prototype parts cost only $600 to $1,000. While molded hose tooling for prototypes cost around $600 and its prototypes run between $60 and $90, metal prototype sand molded hose prototypes can be replaced by 3D printed prototypes that cost between $100 and $800. Multiple prototype iterations multiply the cost savings.
“VCE is also looking at using 3D printing to produce jigs and fixtures to increase the efficiency of the manufacturing process and digitally manufactured parts to address low-volume part production,” Hartman concluded.