Printed parts bring aftersales innovation

A brand new innovation in the truck spare parts business will be introduced to market in September, after Mercedes-Benz Trucks announced it will be offering 3D printed parts on demand.

Using pioneering printing processes, the truck maker will have the capacity to produce plastic spares via its GenuineParts brand, offering the same level of quality and made from the same materials as more traditional injection-moulded parts. The components will be ordered and supplied at the push of a button, quickly and in any quantity, reducing storage and shipping costs and time.

Mercedes-Benz Trucks’ parent company, Daimler, currently produces more than 100,000 printed prototype car and CV parts a year, including covers, spacers, spring caps, air and cable ducts, clamps, mountings and control elements.

The ‘printed’ spare parts are created on demand with state-of-the-art 3D printers based on the Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) printing process.

“We set the same benchmarks for reliability, functionality, durability and economy for spare parts from 3D production as for parts from conventional production,” said Andreas Deuschle, Head of Marketing & Operations in the Customer Services & Parts Mercedes-Benz Trucks Division. “However, 3D offers many more possibilities; this is why we shall be rapidly extending the production of 3D printed parts.”

3D printing promises environmental benefits, too. Unlike conventional parts manufacturing, in batches, there’s no need to predict and produce to demand, meaning that the range includes spare parts for which there is only a low demand in small quantities every year.

Historically, producing them was uneconomical for suppliers – production facilities and tools often have to be retained and maintained for years. With 3D printing, every spare part is available on demand at short notice, all over the world.

As spare and retrofit parts can still be ‘reprinted’, even after a long time, using stored data means no warehousing is required, nor is there any surplus material or waste to deal with.