It's just one part for now but more could be on the way soon.

Mercedes-Benz Trucks now sells a 3d-printed aluminum thermostat cover for certain older truck and Unimog models, making it the first printed metal replacement part from the company. “We ensure the same functionality, reliability, durability and cost-effectiveness with 3D metal parts as we do with conventionally produced parts,” Andreas Deuschle, Head of Marketing and Operations in Customer Services and Parts at Mercedes-Benz Trucks, said in the announcement of the innovation.

Mercedes-Benz 3D Printing
Mercedes-Benz 3D Printing

Mercedes Trucks uses a 3d printing process called Selective Laser Melting for making the thermostat cover. Lasers melt individual layers an aluminum-silicon material. After one level is complete, a machine applies more the substance, and the lasers activate again.

This method can make small numbers of a component in practically any shape, so look for metal, printed replacement parts in the future. The company imagines using the process to build engine, cooling, transmission, and chassis items. Mercedes reports that these parts have just as much strength and thermal resistance as the original pieces.

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“The particular added value of 3D printing technology is that it considerably increases speed and flexibility, especially when producing spare and special parts,” Deuschle said. “This gives us completely new possibilities for offering our customers spare parts rapidly and at attractive prices, even long after series production has ceased."

Three-dimensional printing could be the future of keeping older vehicles on the road. In addition to Mercedes making metal components, Ford is toying with how to create complete body parts. For now, the technology isn’t suitable for the large-scale production of parts, but it seems perfect for one-off orders of rare pieces.

Enthusiasts could find plenty of uses for a 3d printer, too. For example, Scuderia Ferrari is evaluating different metal alloys for engine components by printing the prototypes. An Airbus subsidiary has also used the process to make a custom, aluminum motorcycle frame.

Source: Mercedes-Benz

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