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Ultimaker drives Ford with 3D printing

Motoring giant Ford has opened up about its partnership with Ultimaker, saying that the 3D print specialist is helping it create a wide range of applications right across its production line.

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Ford uses 3D printing technique to produce parts for a number of its vehicles (Image courtesy of Ford)

Ford relies on desktop 3D printing to produce a variety of assembly tools, jigs and fixtures, and as Ultimaker's open filament system enables material producers to provide industrial-grade materials with different properties, the technology has proved a good fit.

3D printing is also used in the pilot plant at Ford in Cologne, Germany, where staff utilise the technology to produce custom-fit production tools, often designed for a specific task and model.

The serial production of the Ford Focus alone requires more than 50 different assembly tools, which are initially developed in the Pilot Plant and later printed on site in all European plants. The creation and procurement of tools via external contract manufacturers takes a lot of time, is cost-intensive and slows down the development process.

Ford chose Ultimaker because the quality and reliability of the print results are in optimal proportion to the costs

To help optimise the workflow, Ford's Additive Manufacturing Team opted to integrate desktop 3D printers from Ultimaker into the workflow.

Lars Bognar, research engineer additive manufacturing at Ford, says:  "Ford chose Ultimaker because the quality and reliability of the print results are in optimal proportion to the costs.”

Instead of an average of ten weeks for external contract design and manufacture, the Ultimaker technology means that even complex assembly fixtures are now available within ten days.

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