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Torbjörn Larsson, Volvo Cars
Photo: Lina Noväng

Volvo Cars aims for increased collaboration in additive manufacturing

Volvo Cars has committed to becoming a circular business by 2040. A challenge that, according to themselves, is one of the biggest they’ve ever faced. The use of recycled and bio-based materials is part of the solution, as is additive manufacturing. We have talked to Torbjörn Larsson, Senior Principal Engineer, and AM Expert at Volvo Cars.

Volvo Cars had been eyeing additive manufacturing with interest for quite some time when the Application Center for Additive Manufacturing (AM Center) took its first trembling steps in 2021. They were one of the first companies to sign up for a partnership, and have been active in the center ever since. 

“Since we joined the AM Center, more and more people have gained an understanding of the technology, and begun to see the possibilities and advantages of AM. We don’t have any metal AM equipment ourselves, so being part of the center has been very valuable to us,” says Torbjörn Larsson. 

So far, Volvo Cars has mainly used additive manufacturing for prototypes, but this spring they installed their very first additively manufactured component in the Volvo EX90, which was launched end of last year.

“It is a small thing really, a detail in the media system. It is mostly there for esthetical reasons, but still,” Larsson says with a smile. 

Collaboration is key

The opportunity to share ideas and experiences with other organisations dealing with the same challenges is, according to Larsson, one of the main perks of being part of the AM Center. The partner conference, held in May this year, provided a golden opportunity to meet everyone in person.

“I found the conference very rewarding, and I’m hoping for more similar opportunities to interact with our fellow partners in the center as we go along. Every organisation is to some degree protective of their own research and development, but to generate more knowledge I believe in more collaboration. Since we are all on different maturity levels when it comes to additive manufacturing, we can learn a great deal from each other.

Lost in translation

Each year, Volvo Cars delivers 800 000 products to customers all over the world. Although a multitude of components in each car in theory could be manufactured additively, the process is still too slow, and too expensive. Not to mention the fact that it’s a painstaking process to make sure that the additively manufactured components possess the same qualities as their traditionally manufactured counterparts.

“I think we need to work more on translation tables; if we are to mimic the properties of traditionally manufactured components in additively manufactured ditto, there has to be an easy and good way translate them,” says Larsson.

Onwards and upwards

There is, however, not a doubt in Larsson’s mind that additive manufacturing is the way forward.

“I see AM as an enabler for sustainable manufacturing. It will help us produce components with better quality and a longer lifespan, while using less material. Right now, the greatest challenge is the price tag. There are already areas where AM is profitable, but for mass production it’s still too expensive. But I think that we will work it out, as we mature and increase our productivity. I am convinced that, in due time, we will see a decrease in cost,” says Larsson.

WHAT IS ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING?

Additive manufacturing involves a complex and in-depth industrial manufacturing process. It encompasses multiple processes, including 3D printing. Additive manufacturing (AM) is a sustainable process. You only produce what you need, hence minimizing waste.

APPLICATION CENTER FOR ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING - OPEN TO EVERYONE

At the AM Center we offer the opportunity to test different additive manufacturing techniques including pre- and post-processing. We lower the threshold, and give small and medium-sized companies quick and easy access to the latest technology. The AM Center offers a wide range of expertise and services at all stages along the additive manufacturing value chain, for example in:

  • Design for additive manufacturing
  • Material and process development
  • Post-processing and quality assurance
  • New businesses and business models

Visit the Application Center for Additive Manufacturing

Seyed Hosseini

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Lina Noväng

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