Toyota has revealed the benefits it has seen at its Polish factories in the use of 3D printing technology.
The automotive company has been using 3D printers from Zortrax at factories in Poland for years and has invested over 100,000 PLN (around 18,900 GBP) into additive manufacturing equipment. Toyota says due to the printer’s reliability and low maintenance costs, it is used for manufacturing tools that optimise assembly line workflows.
“3D printing is not that much about manufacturing time, as it is not the fastest technology on the market, but it surely is the most flexible. We do not have to store spare parts, because we can 3D print them on demand. We can optimise our projects freely since 3D printers materialise nearly all geometries imaginable. We can start a 3D printing process whenever such a need occurs,” said Łukasz Kondek, 3D printing engineer at Toyota.
Toyota’s factories in Poland use the technology for four types of components, positioning jigs, assembly jigs, assembly tools and covers. The components manufactured on the Zortrax M300 Plus are often combined with parts made using other manufacturing technologies.
At Toyota, one of the gauges used has a 3D printed body and pins that contact metal surfaces, which were made from nylon on CNC machine tools to increase durability. This way, Toyota engineers have managed to extend the life of the instruments. The company said that early prototypes were used for more than six months before they wore out, and when that happened, it took just seven hours to print new ones.
Michał Siemasko, Head of Research and Development at Zortrax, said: “One of the key benefits of implementing Zortrax 3D printers in manufacturing and industry is their tried and true, stable construction and ease of maintenance. That means that global manufacturers like Toyota can rely on them while printing equipment critical to keeping the assembly line running.
“Reliability is essential, as even short delays can generate losses that far exceed the value of the printers themselves. Therefore, what we offer large industrial customers is the assurance that our 3D printers will perform as they should every time.”
Toyota says that using 3D printers such as the Zortrax M300 Plus solved design problems, significantly reduced cost, and shortened lead times. According to the company, the entire investment in 3D printing equipment at its Poland factories paid for itself in one year.
William Dallas Martin, a Technician at Toyota Motor North America's TILT Lab, featured on the TCT Additive Insight podcast for an Innovators on Innovators episode last year, speaking with Met-L-Flo President and AMUG Past President Carl Dekker.