While I’m on an additive manufacturing theme today, here is some news I picked up revealing additive manufacturing applications at a major manufacturer. It involves Dana, a supplier to the “mobility industry”, namely automotive, commercial vehicle, and off-highway markets.

The problem statement—Dana was seeking a way to expand its engineers’ ability to rapidly ideate and prototype more efficiently and effectively. A team was assembled to explore the opportunities that additive manufacturing could bring.

“Additive is a situation where if you’re not engaged, if you’re not learning, if you’re not driving innovation from it, you’re going to miss the boat,” Terry Hammer, Vice President, Light-Vehicle and Global Core Engineering at Dana. “Dana took a very structured approach to additive manufacturing. We wanted to define the value first.”

The team at Dana had heard about Markforged’s 3D printers and software solution and started exploring the technology as an option. The company invested in two Markforged X7 3D printers and two Metal X systems, putting one of each in Maumee, Ohio and Trento, Italy.

“From the beginning, it was about being able to leverage additive manufacturing to provided more cost-effective replacements for specialized tooling,” says Hammer.

The company now has Markforged 3D printers across seven countries — including Italy, the U.S.A., Canada, Brazil, Germany, India, and China.

When the initiative was approved, Kelly Puckett, Senior Manager of Additive Manufacturing, who has been with Dana for twenty years, was asked to lead the additive manufacturing efforts. “I’m tasked to ensure Dana uses additive more frequently or in a better way,” he says.

Markforged VP of Sales Bryan Painter says that bringing the technology in is just the starting point. “Your need to then think about how you’re going to be successful and the values that you’re going to get if you are successful,” Painter says. “The rest of it is just technology. People and process are really what makes the difference.”

From whiteboard sessions about the deployment plan to the creation of Markforged University — the educational program that aims to teach Markforged users about how to best use its technology — the two companies have collaborated with one another to continuously learn how to improve their businesses.

For Markforged, this collaboration has resulted in the creation of new products and services, as well as improved hardware, software, and professional services — thanks to Dana’s candid feedback. Some notable products and services made possible or better with Dana include Enterprise Eiger, Markforged University, Turbo Print, and Blacksmith. 

More than 150 people from Dana have taken part in Markforged University so far, either in-person or online, meaning that more and more engineers and designers have the tools they need to use their Marforged printers effectively. Andrea Aylward, Additive Manufacturing Engineer at Dana in Canada, says that the team gained a lot from completing Marforged University. “We got a handle on best practices and things to keep in mind when trying to design or adapt a design for additive manufacturing.”

With a large network of Markforged 3D printers at their fingertips, the Dana team can quickly iterate and innovate.

Each manufacturing facility has a different need for additive manufacturing. In Ontario, Canada, the Power Technologies division has used its X7 3D printer to create functional forming dies — stamping sheet metal into proof-of-concept designs that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive and time-consuming to create. This allowed the team to rapidly test products and prepare for customer analysis in a more efficient, scalable way. 

In Italy, Dana’s Off-Highway advanced engineering team can often be found using their Markforged printers for internal tooling and fixtures. 

“The good quality of the composite parts of the X7 opens some very good opportunities in terms of tooling and fixtures,” says Fabrizio Zendri, Advanced Engineering Manager at Dana in Rovereto, Italy. An application Zendri is most proud of is workholding gears that hold parts as they are being processed. At the end of 2020, the fixtures had been in use for over a year without failure and have resulted in 70% cost savings and a 90% reduction in lead time per fixture.

In Maumee, Ohio, each tech center’s additive manufacturing lead joins a monthly meeting with other leads to share findings, ideas, and concerns. Some centers even share designs that are printed in other global locations, and they’re finding new and exciting ways to use their printers. This mindset has set them up for success, according to Marforged’s Cady. “Dana as an organization is going to be able to move faster than many because they’re designing with an additive mindset, even for the subtractive process.”

Though many of Dana’s engineers are spread out across different time zones, Eiger’s cloud architecture allows them to work seamlessly as if they were in the same room together. They’re able to share designs, get real-time analytics, and live telemetry in one place for easy global fleet management. “Eiger itself is a very simple software to use. It’s very intuitive,” says Puckett.

Now that Dana has started to adopt and deploy Markforged printers, software, and training, Dana is looking forward to the future and how they’ll continue to be leaders in the mobility industry with the help of additive manufacturing. “We’re expanding our facility to another floor of the building so we will have a better place for the machines, and we’re finalizing the installation of the Metal X,” says Fabrizio Zendri in Italy.

Scaling the speed and efficiency of prototyping operations across their global locations is key to the future success of additive at Dana. “We have begun to produce some of the tools and fixtures that we might have purchased on the outside before,” says Puckett. “Especially as we go to the plants, the plant engineer that needs something printed with a machine—they ned it today. And the faster we can get it to their hands with the least amount of effort for them to get it produced, the better off they are.”

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