DUBLIN, VA—Volvo Trucks North America is using 3D printing technology to produce tools and fixtures for its assembly plant here.

Facility Vice President and General Manager Franky Marchand says Volvo Trucks began exploring the use of 3D printing with a prototype approach, identifying opportunities to improve quality in the manufacturing process.

“Several years later, we can now say that 3D printing has become an integral component to our manufacturing processes and culture,” he says, noting the implementation of 3D-printed manufacturing tools enables quicker production and continuous quality improvements.

More than 500 3D-printed tools and fixtures are in use on the factory’s shop floor. The tools and fixtures were primarily made with selective laser sintering, a technology that uses a laser to sinter powdered plastic material into a solid structure.

“While the technology has only been in use for a handful of years, it is already proving to be a valuable component of the manufacturing process at NRV, significantly saving production time and parts costs and continually improving quality,” says Adam Crowder, manager of advanced manufacturing technology at the plant.

For example, Volvo used 3D printing to make a one-piece diffuser used in the paint atomizer cleaning process, saving the company more than $1,000 per part, as well as eliminating the need for a multi-piece component.

Other examples of 3D printed fixtures in use at Volvo include roof seal gauges, fuse installation platens, drilling fixtures, brake piston gauges, vacuum drill ducts, brake valve fitting gauges, hood drilling fixtures, power steering adapter holders, luggage door gap gauges and luggage door pins.