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Opel reduces assembly tool production costs with 3D printing

28 February 2016

Opel is using 3D printed manufacturing tools to attach production parts to its‘Adam' car, including roof spoilers, glass roofs and even the special lettering on its rear side-windows.

Opel was the third-largest passenger car brand in the European Union in 2014, and together with Vauxhall, sold more than a million cars. The automaker's International Technical Development Center is currently 3D printing a range of manufacturing and assembly tools to advance the production of its ‘Adam' hatchback car, and claims that it has slashed manufacturing tool production costs by up to 90 percent as a result. These assembly tools are used to attach components to the car, such as the rocker moulding and roof spoilers, to align the ‘Adam' lettering on the rear-side window, as well as assemble the glass and retractable roofs. Sascha Holl, whoc is responsible for tool design at Opel, takes up the story:

"Besides the cut in tool production time and considerable cost reductions, customised tools are a third important benefit achieved with 3D printing. We are now able to produce more complex shapes than we could via conventional manufacturing. This crucially allows us to adapt the tool to the worker and the specific car."

Since it began 3D printing its manufacturing tools, the company has involved its assembly-line workers in the design process in order to improve efficiency. This approach allows operators to evaluate various concepts and use their experience to highlight any potential issues before any commitment is made to the production of the final assembly tool.

Opel is using a fleet of Stratasys FDM 3D printers to undertake this work. With Stratasys 3D printing, any required design iterations to the Opel manufacturing tools are easily accommodated in a matter of hours, eliminating costly iterations further along the production process. Head of Stratasys’ EMEA operations, Andy Middleton concludes:

"Cases like Opel emphasise the massive impact that low risk, high-reward 3D printed parts - such as these manufacturing tools - can have on production efficiency. The capability to produce such items on-demand and  at a reduced cost can significantly accelerate time-to-production and give businesses that competitive edge. Combine that with the ability to customise tools efficiently, as well as create complex geometries, and you can see why Opel is indicative of the way in which additive manufacturing is transforming our customer's production operations."

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