More flexible thanks to 3D farms
Digitisation and Industry 4.0 use plastic printing more and more in Production and Logistics
lastic 3D printing or additive production (method of material processing by gradually adding layers – ed.) significantly increases the speed of the carmaker’s response to issues that may occur during production. It facilitates the production of prototypes, customised piece components and small series production. At the same time, it allows keeping a smaller number of spare parts, which significantly reduces costs. It significantly supports innovation and improvement projects as well.
3D plastic printers, mostly from the Czech Republic–based Prusa Research Company, were used by Production and Logistics.
3D Printing Applications
In the area of Production and Logistics, most of the 3D farms (i.e. workplaces with plastic 3D printers) operate in the PF – Car Production department. Last year, for example, after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, it became strongly involved in the printing of protective shields for hospitals in the regions where the Czech plants are located (read more in the April 2020 issue of ŠKODA Mobil). With 10 3D plastic printers, the biggest 3D farm is located at the MB II Body Shop.
The average filament (i.e. printing material – ed.) consumption rate of such a big farm is approximately 15 to 20 kg per month. When printing protective shields for hospitals last spring, up to 30 kg of material was consumed during the same period. Polyethylene terephthalate glycol (PET-G) is most often used for printing. It has excellent mechanical properties, trouble-free printing, chemical resistance, dimensional stability, non-flammability and recyclability. It offers a wide range of colours and, for example in the MB II Body Shop, it replaces some metal parts.
Additive production gradually penetrates all the production departments. Last autumn, the PPD – Digitalization and Industry 4.0 department helped to identify plastic 3D printing opportunities in internal logistics. After touring selected plants in Mladá Boleslav and Kvasiny, it recommended suitable printers on which a wide range of auxiliary products and tools would be created. Plastic 3D printing already has a rock-solid place in the PAP – Central Pilot Hall and PSZ – Central Technical Service Facility. The leader in the field of metallic 3D printing is the PSW-F – Casting Tool Production department. This method is more expensive and is, therefore, used more in the production of prototypes and parts with complicated shapes.
In September 2020, the PPD department unified the cooperation of all production departments into the Plastic 3D Printing working group. Its goal is to support the use of this method in the automotive industry and create a process and a unified database of auxiliary products and tools. At the same time, together with the ŠKODA Academy, it supports employee training and organises workshops with industrial solution suppliers. Jana Polášek Filová
Quick assistance in a crisis
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly tested the 3D farms’ ability to respond to sudden issues. Last spring, the technology of plastic printing in Production and Logistics was used to produce protective shields and respirators. This year, it proved to be perfect for securing missing auxiliary products that could not be delivered on time by an external company. In this case, it was gearbox covers for the assembly line in Kvasiny; without them, production would have been jeopardised. Almost all the members of the Plastic 3D Printing group and their colleagues from the EPG – Gearbox Development department took part in the activities coordinated by the MBII Welding Shop and the PPD – Digitalization and Industry 4.0 department. Thanks to their outstanding commitment and cooperation, the crisis was successfully mitigated. In addition, after their use in assembly, the covers will be used to produce a new recycled filament.
Learn how to work with 3D printing
Although the description of the 3D printing process might make it sound like rocket science, you will easily understand everything thanks to the new ŠKODA Academy courses. On the menu, you will find several courses divided into three levels. The first Basic course provides general information about 3D printing technology. The Advanced courses are designed for those who need to gain practical skills to operate their 3D plastic printer. Other professional courses focus on designing 3D models in CATIA and Creo software. The training series concludes with its special module for experts focused on 3D model scanning. The impetus for the creation of these courses came last autumn from Production and Logistics, when Jana Polášek Filová and her colleagues from PPD – Digitalization and Industry 4.0 asked the key 3D printing users from all Production departments about their experiences with this technology. “The representatives of the individual departments described their current knowledge and skills in the field of additive production, and they simultaneously defined their specific requirements for further education”, clarifies Polášek Filová. The training series was then prepared by a team led by professional training coordinator Vladimír Špicar from the SEB/5 – Electrical and IT department in cooperation with SEA/1 – New Media/Language Training. Their goal is to connect theory with practice as effectively as possible, increase technical knowledge and deepen the competencies of the employees (so-called upskilling), offer them the possibility of internal retraining (so-called reskilling) and simultaneously support the improvement of our production processes and innovations. ED
You can find the offered courses at ŠKODA Space