0 to 60: 3D Printing Puts Fixtures into Gear for MAHLE
3D printed cars, airplane components and medical devices get the lion’s share of industry headlines. But global manufacturers like MAHLE, a leading automotive parts supplier, have found the technology offers tremendous value beyond those on the front page.
For one of its latest developments, MAHLE was searching for a faster and less expensive way to make fixtures for automotive HVAC assemblies. The fixture was to validate MAHLE’s production part, ensuring they could move onto the next phase of manufacturing without skipping a beat – and save time and money in the process.
MAHLE needed a fixture, and they needed it fast. The fixture had to be designed, built and shipped from the United States to South Korea within a week. Without a fixture to verify the part’s design, accuracy and stability, MAHLE’s production timeline could be compromised. Given that timeline, along with their internal 3D printing knowledge and technology gaps, MAHLE needed a service provider with high degrees of flexibility, capacity and technical knowledge to get the job done.
“Initially, we weren’t sure this could be finished in time because of the tight turnaround,” said Joe Czach, prototype shop manager at MAHLE. The immediate need meant a steel machined fixture wasn’t an option. Plus, there were other requirements that had to be met, beyond the compressed timeline.
The team wanted to consolidate the fixture from three separate components into one part, which would present another hurdle for traditional manufacturing methods. A robust, inexpensive part that had tight dimensional accuracy and solid stability was vital.
Based on the part’s parameters, MAHLE knew 3D printing could make the fixture a reality. The company also understood the benefits of 3D printing its part, including reduced lead times, lower costs and increased productivity. But to make their complex fixture a reality, MAHLE had to look outside its company walls for additional expertise and equipment.
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MAHLE fixture in use