Nissan is currently trialling the use of 3D printed jigs and fixtures on its European assembly lines, including those of its Navara 4×4 pickup truck.
The plan has proven a success at its Barcelona facility, where Nissan has printed 700 parts in-house so far, with some costing it as little as €3.45 to manufacture.
Previously the automotive giant outsourced all of its prototypes and jigs to mechanical suppliers who used traditional manufacturing methods, such as CNC and drilling.
Although the quality of the finished product was good, the lead times were long and inflexible and the costs were high, with even simple tools reportedly costing in the region of €400 for machining.
By printing some of these parts in-house with 3D printers, Nissan says it has cut the time of designing, refining and producing parts from one week to just one day and slashed costs by 95%.
The factory used local 3D Printing brand BCN3D and its FDM technology to instigate a trial that could now be replicated at other Nissan Europe plants, including the UK.
It’s additive manufacturing laboratory is equipped with a farm of four BCN3D printers, which have proven capable of running 24/7 to meet Nissan’s intense production schedule.
The printers incorporate an Independent Dual Extrusion (IDEX) system, which means that Nissan can print two identical components at the same time, thus crucially doubling productivity.
Carlos Rellán Martínez, manager of maintenance & engineering facilities at Nissan Motor Ibérica Zona Franca, Barcelona, said: “The performance achieved in terms of reliability has been excellent. Our printer runs nearly 24 hours a day and every year we’re printing around 100 different jigs and tools for specific use in our processes.
“Outsourcing tools to a mechanical supplier was 20 times more expensive than 3D printing the same parts, while the wait for tools went from a week down to one day. By introducing 3D printing, we have increased added value and generated low costs, without high delivery times. We have paid off the investment in the printers very quickly.”
The Nissan team used BCN3D printers to produce a multitude of products, including a tool to fix a windshield centering gauge, a lower drill positioning tool and a jig to position and cure the model name on the vehicle.
The fixing tool was made of TPU, cost €8 and took a total of 14 hours to print, the positioning tool was made of ABS, took 15 hours to print and cost €21.50 and the jig was created from ABS, took 12 hours to print and cost just €3.45.