3D printing may still be a head-scratcher to some who can’t imagine what it really is, but to Opel engineers, it’s an increasingly important part of the production process. In fact, 40 assembly tools from a 3D printer are being used in the production of the Opel Adam and upcoming Adam Rocks.
A six-person team in Rüsselsheim prints plastic assembly tools which are used in Opel (and Vauxhall) manufacturing facilities throughout Europe. These tools, which are quick and easy to produce thanks to the 3D printer, are being used at Eisenach for the Adam and the new Adam Rocks.
Virtual Simulation Engineer Sascha Holl says, “In the future, more and more 3D assembly tools will be integrated into the production process … The 3D printing process enables us to produce every imaginable form and shape. Unlike conventional manufacturing technology, we don’t have to accept any limitations.”
For the Adam Rocks, which will be introduced to the European market next month, the Eisenach workers built an assembly jig made by a 3D printer to produce a “Adam Rocks” logotype on the side window; for the windshield, a 3D-printed inlet guide is being used to simplify the mounting process and help ensure a precise alignment. Other tools created by the printer are being used to fasten the chrome step plate to the door openings and to install the Swing Top canvas roof. Altogether, 40 assembly aids and jigs created by a 3D printer are used in Eisenach.
During the 3D printing process, plastic is melted and laid down in successive layers that are just 0.25 mm thick. Hollow spaces and overhangs are automatically treated with a filling material, which is then washed away. Adds Holl, “The process is comparable to bridge or balustrade construction. There high or protruding elements must also be shored up and supported until everything has hardened off. Only then is the supporting framework removed.”
Production of both the Opel Insignia and Cascada convertible have also benefitted from 3D printer tools, which will be gradually introduced for the assembly of other Opel models like the new Corsa, Vivaro and Mokka. This makes Opel a leader in this field within General Motors.