Last updateWed, 17 Jul 2024 6pm

Audi Sport: 3D printed tools, jigs, and fixtures

When the new Audi E-Tron GT was introduced, the Audi Sport Bôllinger Höfe location in Heilbronn, Germany, rapidly needed almost 200 new tools, jigs and fixtures for its production. Designing these tools costs a lot of time. And outsourcing the production can sometimes take many weeks to months. This is where design automation and 3D printing delivered an unparalleled workflow for Audi Sport.

The Audi Sport Böllinger Höfe factory is a high-end car production facility. Their main production focus is on the high-performance Audi R8 and the fully electric Audi E-Tron GT. These cars are the crème de la crème from the renowned German car manufacturer. The assembly line has German efficiency written all over it. The bare cages come in on robotized platforms and are mounted to a top rail. This train of exclusive cars then passes many stations where order-specific parts are installed. It’s difficult to spot two identical cars next to each other, which makes the whole operation even more impressive.

Every station has a limited time to assemble parts and install them onto the car. This is why an optimized and efficient workflow is crucial for the mechanics. Custom tools, jigs and fixtures play a huge role in making the work for the mechanics much faster, easier and ergonomic.

“We produce nearly eight hundred tools and jigs and fixtures for our factory here,” said Cem Guelaylar, 3D Printing Expert at Audi Sport. “Outsourcing needs more than two or three, four weeks, or months. Depends on the supplier and the process to bring the order to the supplier. 3D printing helped us to get these tools in a very short time. The workers come to us and say, I need a fixture to assemble the cars. It takes one day to get this tool in his hand.”

Different tools for different applications

There are custom tools that help aligning parts during installation. For example for installing a roof, or the logos on the outside of the car. This increases the consistency and quality of the final cars while saving minutes per car. Quality control tools make sure all the cars meet the highest standards from Audi. These custom jigs are mounted to parts of the car to measure alignment and tolerances. For example, Audi Sport created a custom jig to focus the head up display (HUD) on the dashboard of the car. The jig uses two lasers that are projected on the installed HUD. When the lasers align it means the reflective glass is installed properly.

Many parts need to be assembled before they are installed onto the cars. Tubes added to a central fluid plate, cables and heatsinks to a central control unit, the list goes on. Working on these parts simply laying on the work desk makes the task very difficult. This is where Audi Sport uses many fixtures in their factory. These fixtures hold the parts in place for easy, and fast assembly. Not only do these fixtures save hours, it has a big impact on the consistency of production. Many of these fixtures are also designed to have a positive impact on ergonomics for the worker. For example by holding tools in a better direction for working.

Designing parts in minutes instead of hours

So when the new E-Tron GT was introduced, a big challenge arose to create the nearly 200 different tools, jigs, and fixtures. And they needed them fast to start production. Designing these tools cost a lot of time and expertise. They need to be precise, user-friendly and easy to produce. This is where trinckle’s fixturemate played a big role. Fixturemate is software specifically designed to create fixtures for assembly. A part is imported and set in the right angle. Then the fixture is created by adding a base plate, places where the part needs supports and holes so it can be mounted to a desk. There is also a library of off-the-shelf tools such as clamps. The software is user friendly enough so anyone can use it. And while designing tools can take hours in traditional CAD software, it only needs 10-20 minutes in fixturemate.

“We started to produce the Audi E Tron GT full electric car here. We needed nearly two hundred fixtures and tools for this new car. Fixturemate helped us in a short time to bring a lot of fixtures,” Guelaylar noted. “We put our parts in Fixturemate, bring the fixture out of this software in minutes. Normally, in classic construction, we need two hours, three hours, four hours, depending on the size of the part. Fixturemate is very easy to use. We can bring trainees and show them how to use the fixturemate software, and they can directly work with this software and bring the fixtures in a short time.”

The benefits of 3D printing at Audi Sport

Not only did Audi Sport need the parts to be designed fast, they also needed to be produced in a very short time. Outsourcing production of tools is expensive and can also take many weeks to months. This is why Audi started with a 3D Printing room. Several printers such as the Ultimaker S5 enable Audi Sport to produce their tooling needs. Tools can now be printed in a day at a fraction of the cost. There is no need to request quotes, brief suppliers and wait for parts to be produced and delivered. When a part doesn’t meet the requirements, it can directly be improved and reprinted.

The right material for the job

Most of the fixtures are printed using Tough PLA. This material has similar flex and strength properties like ABS, but prints very easily without the challenges of ABS. There are also tools printed for the protection of car parts using TPU95a. The soft material is perfect to prevent parts from being damaged.

Thanks to UltiMaker’s ecosystem, Audi Sport also has access to hundreds of third-party materials. These materials often have very specific properties. One of these materials that Audi Sport uses is ESD-safe PLA that is used for fixtures that handle electronic components. Preparing 3D prints with these materials is made effortless using Ultimaker Cura as the printing profiles are available for free in the marketplace.

“We use Tough PLA because it’s cheap and it’s easy to use. We use TPU mostly for protection and to protect car parts. We also use ESD safe materials and sometimes ABS or PETG. 3D printing is, for us, a very fast and helpful thing for our factory and our workers,” Guelayler continued.

Audi Sport truly excels in constantly finding more efficiency. By starting 3D printing for their tools they’ve reduced tool production cost over 80% while delivering these tools to the workers in a day instead of several weeks. On top of that, by using fixturemate, Audi Sport also made fixture design easy and fast. You don’t need a dedicated CAD-designer to create fixture designs. From designing to 3D printing, anyone can create the tools they need, and start to benefit.



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