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Nissan is ahead of the curve with a dynamic implementation of 3D printed tools, jigs and fixtures in its assembly lines

Automotive giant Nissan is relying on a small farm of BCN3D printers in its Barcelona factory to fabricate 700 tools, jigs, and fixtures in its car assembly lines so far. We developed a digital library for you to see the specifications of each part. On a tour of their facilities, Trim & Chassis Manufacturing Kaizen Engineer Enric Ridao and Manager of Maintenance & Engineering Facilities Carlos Rellán told us all about their immense savings in time and costs: reducing one week to one day, and costs to 20 times less.

Everyone, everywhere has heard of Nissan. There’s no denying that Nissan has made a name for itself as a giant in the automotive industry – together with Alliance Partners Renault and Mitsubishi, they sell 1 in 10 cars worldwide! 

Since its creation in 1933, the company has always put an emphasis on innovation, and this constant incorporation of new technologies has led it to 3D printing. The team in the Barcelona factory has chosen to use a small farm of BCN3D printers to create various tools, jigs, and fixtures. During our visit to their factory, we spoke to the team who have experienced first-hand huge reductions in time and costs by using 3D FFF technology instead of external suppliers.

Nissan Applications

Discover the full library of Nissan’s 3D printed tooling 

The constant evolution of the Nissan factory in Barcelona constantly keeps the workers on their toes. The team is often challenged to manufacture new parts, and subsequently come up with innovative and versatile techniques to account for them. 

Every year we’re printing a total amount of approximately 100 jigs and tools with a specific use in our processes.” – Carlos Rellán Martínez, Manager of Maintenance & Engineering Facilities at Nissan Motor Ibérica Zona Franca, Barcelona. 

There’s a lot to be learned from this strategy from the Nissan team, and so, to fully showcase the revolutionary impact the 3D printed tools, jigs, and fixtures have had on Nissan’s assembly lines, we compiled a detailed listing of 22 specific parts. 

Covering all areas of the car and all points in the assembly lines, download the full library of Nissan’s 3D printed tooling for an insight into the specifications of each part, including material used, cost, printing time and application, and how they adapted their workflow to incorporate in-house 3D printing. Take a look to see the benefits fully-customized tools along your manufacturing could bring to you. 

Download the complete application collection

Prior to printing

Before 3D printing changed the game, Nissan outsourced all of its prototypes and specific jigs for minor change trials to mechanical suppliers using traditional manufacturing methods. 

This meant that two vital aspects of running a production line were being lost: time and money. Moreover, in their outsourcing, they experienced issues of unreliability, and a strict schedule meant that they were limited in terms of flexibility. 

To put it plainly, the entire process from designing, refining to printing would take a week with an external supplier; with the use of in-house 3D printing, the team found the lead time could be reduced to just one day

In terms of costs, the price of using methods such as CNC and drilling was around 20 times higher than 3D printing.

“To increase the added value: generating low costs, and without generating high delivery times. We paid off the investment very quickly.’ – Enric Ridao, Trim & Chassis Manufacturing Kaizen Engineer at Nissan Motor Ibérica Zona Franca, Barcelona.

Time and cost comparison“When we started in 2014, for the first simple tool we wanted to print we were offered costs of around 400€ for machining. Instead, we did it here on our factory premises and with 3 tools we had already amortized the machine.” – Enric Ridao, Trim & Chassis Manufacturing Kaizen Engineer at Nissan Motor Ibérica Zona Franca, Barcelona.

Taking matters into their own hands

Nissan’s center around innovation led the team to create 3D printing program Observers 4.0 across all Nissan shops in Barcelona. In 2014, the team took it upon themselves to gain a deeper understanding of 3D printing technology, by firstly participating in a RepRapBCN workshop, the origins of which would later become BCN3D.

With the objective not only to introduce this technology in Nissan Motor Ibèrica, but to empower our staff in this technology.” – Carlos Rellán Martínez, Manager of Maintenance & Engineering Facilities at Nissan Motor Ibérica Zona Franca, Barcelona.

After the team demonstrated the worth of the BCN3D machines, Nissan followed up with a Sigmax printer and later a small farm. The 3D printing design process proved to be easier, the Independent Dual Extrusion System (IDEX) allowed the team to work twice as fast, doubling their productivity, and the printers remained reliable over long print jobs.

The performance achieved in terms of reliability has been excellent.” – Carlos Rellán Martínez, Manager of Maintenance & Engineering Facilities at Nissan Motor Ibérica Zona Franca, Barcelona.

Epsilon W50 and Smart Cabinet

An assortment of printed parts 

Download the complete application collection

For a snippet of what’s included in our downloadable handbook, let’s take a look at 3 parts in particular:

Nissan 3D printed tooling

This fixture is a windshield centring gauge, which maintains the correct distance between the A-pillar of the car and the windshield. When fixing the gauge to the car parts, the securing of one side, in turn, secures the other, ensuring accuracy and speeding up the process. This part is 100x120x80mm in size, and its print job employing the use of the strong material TPU cost 8€ and took a total of 14 hours to print. 

Windshield centring gauge

Made up of 5 connected parts and 1000x400x15mm in size, this part makes a name for itself as the largest 3D printed part you can find in Nissan today. Each part of this positioning tool took an average of 15 hours to print using technical material ABS, each coming in at a cost of 21.50€. This part functions as an indicator for the drill location to keep consistency throughout each vehicle being assembled, and to provide ease-of-use to the operator. The tool also incorporates some bushings, which means that the part itself lasts longer, and damage to the plastic will be prevented. 

Lower drill positioning jig

The end-use part shown below is a jig that serves two purposes: positioning and curing the car model name on the boot to allow the operator to position the sticker of the vehicle’s nomenclature correctly every time. The geometry of the print made it easy for the operator to easily place the name of the car, and two gauges that fit between the back panels and trunk door made sure that the nameplate was reliably positioned in the same place. This is done through the use of a neodymium magnet inside of the 300×80 x3mm part that keeps it in place firmly against the sheet metal of the car. Thanks to a UV LED strip on the bottom, the special adhesive was cured, welding the letters to the body of the car. The part is created from ABS, taking 12 hours to print and at an impressive cost of 3.45€.

Car logo positioning template jig

Although Nissan is currently using plastic materials, they have recently begun trialing metals as well, in an effort to continue their constant innovation.

The Nissan team at the factory in Barcelona differs from other car manufacturers through their dynamism and capability of assembling many different car models in one facility. They took their time to gather in-depth knowledge on the 3D printing process, and have been able to use the innovative technology to their advantage as a result. Skilled at customizing tools for their specific needs, not only to save time and cut costs but to improve the ergonomy of the work stations and the health of the workers as well, proves Nissan’s trailblazing work and the maturity of the 3D printing process. To be trusted by the Nissan team as their way of doing so, and be held to such a high standard, gives our printers a serious amount of brownie points. Saving time and money with 3D printing really is something that any manufacturer can achieve by putting its mind to it!

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