Across the board, additive manufacturing is enabling OEMs and manufacturing businesses to streamline and improve their production workflows. These success stories, often shared as case studies, help to demonstrate to other manufacturers the specific impacts that 3D printing can have. Today’s case study comes from Dunlop Systems and Components, a manufacturer of advanced electronic control systems and suspension components for the automotive and ancillary industries.
Recently, the team at UK-based Dunlop acquired a Markforged composite 3D printer in the hopes of overcoming a bottleneck in its production workflow. That is, the company often found itself outsourcing internal and customer tools to third-party vendors, which itself incurred significant wait times of up to three weeks. If the delivered tool required any changes to meet the customer’s needs, the wait times would be extended significantly.
Since installing Markforged’s 3D printing technology, the company has been able to keep tooling production in-house, dramatically reducing wait times for internal and customer tools.
Since utilizing the 3D printer and Markforged’s continuous carbon fiber reinforcing material, the Dunlop Systems and Components team has reported an increase in tools available, a reduction in lead times and a significant decrease in costs. In fact, Mark Staham, Production and Engineering Manager at Dunlop Systems and Components, plans to replace all of his tooling with 3D printed Onyx parts.
In terms of what Dunlop is making with the composite 3D printer, the company says the technology has transformed production of a fixture designed to hold air suspension parts for trains and machinery in place while they undergo hydraulic crimping. The original tooling was made from nylon, however, hot weather often caused the part to warp. The new fixtures, printed from Onyx, are more resilient to the heat.
The 3D printer is also being used to produce custom tooling for a beta electric vehicle. For this project, Dunlop says it has saved thousands of pounds by switching to the Markforged system for the prototype tooling. For instance, the traditional production of a piston for the electric vehicle would have cost the team about £500 (about $630) to create. With 3D printing, the part now only costs about £15 ($18) to produce.
“There are parts we would not have even thought about doing and there are parts that we would not have been able to afford to do,” said Statham. “We never say ‘no we can’t do it’, it’s like ‘yes we can. We’ll print it.’”
Overall, Dunlop Systems and Components believes it could save about £40,000 (about $50,200) a year thanks to its new in-house 3D printing capabilities.