August 10, 2016 Vol. 13 No. 16

It had to come. A couple of weeks back Daimler announced that owners of Mercedes-Benz trucks will soon be installing genuine plastic replacement parts produced on a 3D printer. The parts can be manufactured to order and will typically get to the customer within a matter of days, the German giant says.

With the use of 3D printing technology in the aftermarket, Mercedes-Benz figures it has taken the technological leadership among global truck producers. And surely it has, for the moment. No word on how long this might take to reach Daimler Trucks North America.

So far, 30 spare parts are available to be ordered and supplied — at the push of a button — in any quantity.

This will be a boon for owners of older models, even decades old, who sometimes suffer from blank stares when they ask for Widget X at the parts counter. Making components the traditional way becomes less than cost-effective at some point and truck owners are left to scramble for good used parts. Or, on a good day, they might discover an NOS (new old stock) item hiding in the back of a shop.

“We set the same benchmarks for reliability, functionality, durability and economy for spare parts from 3D production as for parts from conventional production,” says Andreas Deuschle, head of marketing & operations in the Customer Services & Parts arm of Mercedes-Benz Trucks. “However, 3D offers many more possibilities; this is why we shall be rapidly extending the production of 3D printed parts.”

Daimler notes that it has extensive experience with 3D printing because it uses the process to create prototype parts — more than 100,000 of them a year.

AVAILABLE PARTS CONSIST OF high-quality plastic components such as covers, spacers, spring caps, air and cable ducts, clamps, mountings, etc.

The ‘printed’ parts are created with state-of-the-art 3D printers based on the Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) printing process. According to Wikipedia, SLS is an additive manufacturing technique that uses a laser as the power source to sinter powdered material, aiming the laser automatically at points in space defined by a 3D model, binding the material together to create a solid structure.