Continental accelerates towards agile auto production with 3D printing

Though it may best be known for its tires, Continental AG has its fingers in many pies in the automotive sector, including part production, connectivity, automated driving and mobility services. These business areas are tackled by the company’s Continental Engineering Services (CES) division, which has been a keen adopter of additive manufacturing in recent years.

Today, Continental has an entire Additive Design and Manufacturing (ADaM) Competence Center that produces sample parts for customers, as well as mechanical parts and series production of metal or plastic components. One of the center’s most productive systems is a Stratasys Fortus 450mc 3D printer, which makes all manner of things, from prototypes, to jigs and fixtures, to end-use parts, and is compatible with ESD-compliant materials.

Continental Stratasys Fortus
A 3D printed X-ray guide made from ULTEM 9085 resin used to ensure automotive sensors are kept in place during production.

“We carefully select additive manufacturing technologies in our Competence Center according to their high-performance capabilities, so that we can undertake the widest range of applications possible,” said Stefan Kammann, Head of Samples and Mechanical Solutions at Continental Engineering Services. “The Fortus 450mc is a great addition to our portfolio, as it enables us to access highly specialized materials that allow us to meet the requirements of demanding production applications on the factory floor. In fact, it’s the only 3D printer we have that is capable of creating ESD-compliant production parts in very little time.”

Because CES often worked with electronic parts on the manufacturing floor, machinery parts that interact with them must have static dissipative properties to prevent any damage to the part and eliminate any risk of fire. ABS-ED7 has therefore been a vital material in the division’s 3D printing activities, and is used to print several jigs and fixtures, including the gluing jig for automotive display assembly.

Continental Stratasys Fortus
Stefan Kammann at the Continental ADaM Competence Center

“We are able to 3D print the gluing jig for the automotive display assembly with Stratasys’ ABS-ESD7 material, which means we have a fast, safe, and ESD-compliant solution in-house that is customizable,” Kammann explained. “This not only ensures continuous fast production, but also demonstrates how we look for the best technology to solve the manufacturing challenges with which we are faced.”

Like many others that are using additive manufacturing on the factory floor, Continental AG has also benefitted from faster production times thanks to the rapid turnaround on 3D printed tooling and replacement parts. A knock-on effect of this has been lower downtime rates for machines.

Continental Stratasys Fortus
A 3D printed, ESD-compliant gluing jig for display assembly

“With more and more specialized materials now available, manufacturers are able to meet the exacting requirements of demanding traditional production applications and introduce more customization benefits into the process as a result,” added Yann Rageul, Head of Manufacturing Business Unit for EMEA and Asia at Stratasys. “It is great to see companies such as Continental embracing additive manufacturing within their businesses to overcome production challenges and ensure quality of service to customers is maintained. For our customers, and most businesses right now, this is a strategic imperative.”

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