Automation

Nissan accelerates assembly, lowers costs with 3D printing

Additive manufacturing uses sophisticated motion controls and moves from seamlessly from design to manufacturing; 3D printing with metal continues to progress.

By Mark T. Hoske July 8, 2021
Courtesy: BCN3D press release

 

Learning Objectives

  • Nissan accelerates assembly, lowers costs with 3D printing.
  • About 100 part designs have been 3D printed at Nissan Barcelona.
  • Nissan said it paid off the investment in 3D printers very quickly.

Automotive manufacturer Nissan integrated 3D printing into its production process at the Nissan Barcelona factory using BCN3D, a Spanish 3D printing solutions manufacturer. By printing some parts in-house with 3D printers, Nissan has cut the time of designing, refining and producing parts from one week to one day and slashed costs by 95%. Nissan is printing 3D materials in plastic and is trialing metal. A BCN3D video shows how the Nissan Barcelona factory uses 3D printing to manufacture final parts and prototypes on its assembly line for vehicles, including for the Nissan Navara 4×4 pickup truck.

Fused filament fabrication 3D printing

The car manufacturer has been using BCN3D 3D FFF (fused filament fabrication) technology to create tools, jigs and fixtures for its manufacturing line in Spain, according to information from BCN3D.

Nissan created 700 3D printed parts so far, with some costing as little as 3.45€ to manufacture.

Nissan previously outsourced all prototypes and jigs to mechanical suppliers who used traditional manufacturing methods, such as computer numerical control (CNC) and drilling. Lead times were long and inflexible, and even simple tools could cost near 400€ for machining.

Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is becoming more popular in the automotive sector, helping manufacturers to shorten development cycles and get vehicles into production quicker, BCN3D said. 3D printing also helps to reduce component production times without compromising on their quality.

Automotive manufacturer Nissan integrated 3D printing into its Barcelona factory using BCN3D, a Spanish 3D printing supplier. By printing some parts in-house with 3D printers, Nissan cut time of designing, refining and producing parts from one week to one day and cut costs 95%. Courtesy: BCN3D press release

Automotive manufacturer Nissan integrated 3D printing into its Barcelona factory using BCN3D, a Spanish 3D printing supplier. By printing some parts in-house with 3D printers, Nissan cut time of designing, refining and producing parts from one week to one day and cut costs 95%. Courtesy: BCN3D press release

Additive manufacturing prints identical parts simultaneously

Nissan’s additive manufacturing laboratory has four BCN3D printers, incorporate an Independent Dual Extrusion (IDEX) system, which means Nissan can print two identical components at the same time, doubling productivity.

Nissan used the BCN3D Smart Cabinet to preserve filament printability, extend its shelf life, reduce aesthetic defects and avoid costly reprints.

Carlos Rellán Martínez, manager of maintenance and 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.

Mechanical supplier outsourcing was 20-times more costly than 3D printing

“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,” Martínez said.

The Nissan team has used BCN 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 14 hours to print. The positioning tool was made of ABS, took 15 hours to print and cost 21.50€. The jig was created from ABS, took 12 hours to print and cost just 3.45€.

Eric Pallarés, chief technical officer (CTO) at BCN3D, said: “The automotive industry is probably the best example of scaling up a complex product with the demands of meeting highest quality standards. It’s fascinating to see how the assembly process of a car – where many individual parts are put together in an assembly line – relies on FFF printed parts at virtually every stage. Having assembled thousands of cars, Nissan found using BCN3D 3D printing technology to make jigs and fixtures for complex assembly operations delivers consistently high-quality components at a reduced time and lower cost.”

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

KEYWORDS: Additive manufacturing, 3D printing, Industry 4.0

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Mark T. Hoske
Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.