Almost half of Volvo’s annual car production (533,000 in total in 2016) runs off the assembly line at Volvo Car Gent in Ghent, Belgium. The location looks after the XC60, S60 and V40, as well as their respective Cross Country models, producing around 57 cars per hour for customers around the world. It’s a fast-paced, tough environment, with little room for error.
A small but crucial step in the assembly of any Volvo is the “branding” of each car with logo, model number and other marks. These vary from car to car, but have to be affixed accurately and consistently, speedily and without damaging the paintwork on the trunk. Previously, this was done using a number of separate, cumbersome gluing jigs – templates that workers hoisted onto the back of the car to then place the right marks in the right place, with the correct alignment.
Hannes Wauters, Equipment Engineer at Volvo Car Gent, is always looking out for opportunities to improve these types of production aids and fixtures. Working together with Materialise, he and his team identified the gluing jigs as a perfect case for 3D-printed production line equipment.
Hannes explains: “With production aids we often need a quick fix to keep the line going, so a lot of the time we fall back on traditional manufacturing methods for those – because it’s what we’re familiar with. We don’t often get the time to experiment, but when there’s a chance to learn new things, we go for it. The new gluing jig was for models going in production in January 2017, so we had a bit more time to develop it. We already had a couple of 3D printed parts on the old jigs, so it was a great opportunity to try and see the benefit of additive manufacturing methods when designing a part from scratch.”