A Success Story of Manufactura Moderna de Metales's Additive Manufacturing Journey
Meet Manufactura Moderna de Metales (MMM), a leading automobile component manufacturer that's all about innovation and sustainability in the ever-evolving world of transportation. With nearly 75 years of experience, MMM is a trusted name in the industry, offering dependable and secure solutions. They've set their sights on pioneering developments in the transport sector, investing their expertise and resources to overcome design challenges. Today, MMM operates production facilities in Romania, Mexico, and Spain.
MMM's various divisions are committed to delivering top-notch solutions and design systems that meet the highest quality and safety standards:
MMM specializes in crafting steel, stainless steel, and aluminum tubes for the automotive industry. Their Fluid Systems division is renowned for creating products that can handle fluids in even the most demanding conditions. They've been supplying major automakers for nearly half a century.
MMM is a leader in providing innovative solutions with broad applications across various industries. They play a vital role in the energy transition and decarbonization process by manufacturing and selling hydrogen and CO2 collection devices.
For those in need of additive printing services, MMM's ADDiVAL division offers third-party printing services and engineering assistance to ensure the final product meets each customer's unique needs.
Some of their prominent clients include Stellantis, Toyota, Suzuki, BMW, Volkswagen Group, Renault, and Nissan.
In 2021, MMM expanded its offerings with the introduction of two new divisions: the Energy division, which focuses on hydrogen generation, and the Additive Manufacturing division.
When MMM made the strategic decision to incorporate Additive Manufacturing into its 3D Printing division, they were faced with the following scenario:
"In 2019, our constant search for innovation and excellence led us to the need to incorporate 3D technology in our production processes."
Borja Batlle, Business Development Manager of the ADDiVAL department, explained, "That’s when we started to look into comprehensive solutions and systems so that we could offer that extra value above our competitors."
Their primary objective was to significantly cut down response times, aiming to reduce them from six weeks to just two.
To achieve this, they required high-precision industrial systems capable of modeling the conditions under which their automobile components would operate once installed in a vehicle's engine. One of the critical tests these components needed to pass was the vibration test. The challenge here was to design fixtures that were lighter in weight but still capable of ensuring these components could successfully undergo these tests.
Another challenge lay in the development of metal tube bending tools during the project's initial stages. This was essential to decrease both the time and costs associated with new projects. Additionally, they needed to create additional shims and various control tools to be used in both the production and development phases.
In a nutshell, MMM faced a series of complex challenges as it ventured into the world of Additive Manufacturing, all driven by its unwavering commitment to innovation and its determination to stay ahead of the competition.
MMM needed Additive Manufacturing to produce fixtures for the company. These fixtures would likely be used for various purposes, such as testing and assembly, in their manufacturing processes.
The second major requirement was the ability to 3D print tubes for handling fluids in critical systems within vehicles, including the engine, air conditioning, and water systems. This capability was essential for their operations and product development.
“These tubes have different diameters and are expensive, so when you can print the tube and validate the shims, and get the right diameters and fixtures to simulate assembly and mounting during production, then you have a fantastic advantage to offer your customers, We have managed to design fixtures that are 100% printed in 3 weeks and ready to validate the whole process. Another example from our Romanian factory was a fixture for checking rubber sleeves. We created an internal mechanism inside the fixture with a worm gear. Thanks to the high-precision build, the fixture could be used to check the maximum deviation of 1.0 mm at the tube ends, This play, which determines the precision for finding a part’s tolerance, has saved 60% of the total time for the cycle. These sorts of mechanisms cannot be incorporated using traditional methods, so it's only with composite fixtures that we can create solutions like this,” explained Batlle.
MMM invested in a Markforged 3D Printer to enhance their fixture machining operations. This particular printer is capable of crafting robust materials, predominantly using continuous fiberglass and carbon fiber composites for reinforcement.
The X7 industrial series 3D printer proved to be remarkably versatile, allowing for the rapid creation of high-precision and exceptionally durable items. One key advantage is the ability to integrate continuous fiber reinforcement directly into the manufacturing process. Initially, the 3D printer was used for producing prototypes of the company's components, but it has since evolved to become an integral tool for designing and fabricating the final components right within the company's factory.
“We analyzed several ME (material extrusion) and sintering systems, carrying out specific tests, and the ones from Markforged gave us the best results in terms of the balance between ease of use, precision, and versatility,”
They also implemented the plan with a 3D printer from the Markforged Metal series, the Metal X.
“The Metal X printer complimented part of our component creation process by minimizing the end-to-end time for parts, bringing the delivery and subsequent marketing of our fixtures forward compared to using CNC machining. At Manufactura Moderna de Metales we now take the components we make with the X7 and Metal X printers and combine them to create high-strength, light-weight hybrid fixtures. One example is combining the shims and other tools for controlling the play with parts made using the Metal X printer, This new division aims to help our customers identify the areas in their value chain where additive manufacturing could have the greatest impact and return the most added value. We have specialized engineering teams that will help analyze your designs to achieve optimal results. By bringing together our experience and 3D additive manufacturing technology, we can find the best solution to cover your needs through 3D printing, We have used 17-4PH stainless steel and H13 tool steel in the Metal printer, although we specialize in pure copper components for high-conductivity parts,
Some of the printed copper parts are used as welding electrodes.
“Around 20% of parts are for internal standards, while the other 80% are mainly for customers in the packaging sector.”
Batlle further explained that their typical use of the Markforged 3D Printer involves crafting composite components for preventative maintenance. These components often comprise consumable wear parts or fixtures that have served their intended lifespan. Remarkably, they achieved a very high level of accuracy with fixtures, with errors as minimal as 0.05 mm. These exceptional results were a product of the printer's precision in the printing system combined with specialized DFAM (Design for Additive Manufacturing) techniques.
“Our biggest challenge was becoming familiar with the technology and then getting the most out of it.”
- MMM relies on highly specialized products to meet their unique needs.
Additive Manufacturing significantly reduces development and end-to-end times for final parts.
- Flexibility is key in both design and manufacturing processes.
Innovative clipping systems and Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) are integrated into their solutions.
- MMM's systems demonstrate remarkable repeatability, printing over 50 towers.
They achieve maximum precision in definitive parts.
- Components are produced for quality checks.
Fixture production is streamlined without traditional machining.
“Over the last 5 years, we have cut down component delivery time from an average of 58 days to just 14–21 days, even taking as little as 3 days in some cases – a complete success story!” explained Borja Batlle.
MMM has highlighted that their expertise in copper has opened up fresh opportunities in the packaging sector.
Our dynamism, proactivity, and specialization are our main motors in this new era of innovation and implementation of new solutions. The next step is to assess the FX20 production system, as we need to increase productivity and the size of parts, We need to expand the 3D printing division and there are plans to create a new specialized area at our facilities. The FX20 system is within our sights. To sum up my experience so far with Markforged technologies, in a single word – PRECISION,” he concluded.
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