Ford is partnering with Berlin-based software company, trinckle in order to automate and scale the design process for 3D printed production and assembly tools.
Using its paramate cloud software, trinckle develops software applications for the automated design of AM products. For Ford, which currently uses more than 50 different additive manufactured tools in serial production, trinckle developed an internal application for the efficient generation of labelling jigs, a hand tool used to place model badges on the body of the vehicle. Within the software, the user simply uploads the model data of the car body and the badges to be placed along with additional elements such as handles, magnet mounts for fixation, edge guides and text fields. Paramate’s algorithms then automatically generate the geometry of the tool to fit the contour of the car body.
“The additive manufacturing itself is no longer the dominating cost factor limiting the scalability of the application,” Lars Bognar, Ford Research & Advanced Engineering Europe said. “Up to 50% of the total costs per tool are caused by the manual design, which is the new bottleneck. For each new line and each special edition, these tools must be specifically designed to position the badges with exact accuracy. This design task is not a trivial one, as the tools have to adapt precisely to the free-form surfaces of the car body sheet. It can easily last between two and four hours to create an appropriate AM-ready design. Time that is hard to spend for the designers, who are already working at full capacity. In the worst case, a short-term demand can result in a delay of assembly because the corresponding tools are not available. It was time for us to rethink the design process from scratch, and that’s when we came across the trinckle team.”
This particular application has reduced the design process from 2-4 hours to just 10 minutes without the need for expert knowledge, which is enabling more employees on the assembly line to design their own tools. The team believes this application is just the beginning and plans to implement similar automation for additional AM tools in the near future.
Raphael Koch, Ford Research & Advanced Engineering Europe, added: “The trinckle software application does not only dramatically reduce manual design times and costs, but also streamlines the entire process. We enable our employees on the shop floor to take over more responsibility and relieve our designers at the same time. The latter can focus on their core activities again.”