GKN Driveline expands use of 3D printing

GKN is expanding its use of 3D printing across the manufacturing floor of its Driveline plant in Florence, Italy to replace several traditional production processes. GKN Driveline services over 90% of the world’s car manufacturers with its automotive driveline systems and solutions. Customers include luxury vehicles from the likes of Maserati and Ferrari.

GKN Driveline Florence is testing a range of new tooling applications including these end-of-arm tools to eliminate costly production downtimes, using a Stratasys Fortus 450mc Production 3D Printer.

The company has found that using 3D printing to make customized assembly tools rather than using traditional plastic and several low-loaded metal tools has cut 70% of its lead times. Moreover, because the tools can be produced faster, they can be quickly put through feasibility analysis and deployed on the factory floor much faster. This in turn has cut costs associated with down times in the production line.

Carlo Cavallini, GKN Lead Process Engineer and Team Leader at the Florence plant, describes a recent project to redesign a greasing nozzle tool to eradicate oil spillages, saying: “Utilizing our 3D printer, we developed a tool that dramatically improves grease distribution and eradicates the need to clean up time-consuming spillages. This has been crucial to streamlining the production cycle of the half shaft, enabling us to provide customers with premium quality final parts.”

The team is also 3D printing replacement parts for manufacturing equipment, on-demand, reducing the dependency on suppliers and accelerating part delivery to customers. As an example, the Florence plant recently 3D printed a missing cable bracket for a robot, saving at least one week over the time it would have taken the supplier to send the part. 

Another example is a bespoke end-of-arm tool which moves individual components from one stage of the production line to another. This was printed on a Stratasys Fortus 450mc using the high strength Ultem 9085 material, making it suitable for prolonged use on the production line. GKN Driveline Florence now 3D prints several customized end-of-arm tools across production, resulting in significant time-savings compared to its previous process.

Cavallini says: “The ability to quickly 3D print tools and parts that are customized to a specific production need gives us a new level of flexibility and significantly reduces our supply chain. Considering that we produce several thousand individual parts a week, this ability to manufacture on-demand is crucial to ensuring our production line is always operational and maintains business continuity.”

He concludes: “As we continue to design parts specifically for additive manufacturing, we are finding more and more applications that are delivering value. In the future, I believe that FDM 3D printing will become an integral part of our entire tool development cycle and help us further improve business performance.”


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