One way automakers can meet strict fuel economy and emissions standards is by using lighter engines. This also saves money on fuel because lighter engines consume less fuel — and fuel is the largest single cost for trucking fleets.
The key to lighter engines, according to Renault Trucks engineers and designers, is metal 3D printing.
The company says it is working on an additive manufacturing process that is set to boost the performance of engines. It has designed a prototype DTI 5 4- cylinder Euro 6 step C engine exclusively using 3D printing.
Damien Lemasson, project manager at Renault Trucks, says the process allowed the team to reduce the weight of a 4-cylinder engine by 120 kg or 25 percent. It also reduced the number of components in the DTI 5 engine by 25 percent, making a total of 200 fewer parts.
The complete engine was already designed virtually, but rocker arms and camshaft bearing caps were manufactured by metal 3D printing and successfully bench-tested for 600 hours inside a Euro 6 engine.
“The aim of this project is to demonstrate the positive impact of metal additive manufacturing on the size and weight of an engine,” Lemasson said in a statement. “The tests we have carried out prove the durability of engine components made using 3D printing. It’s not just cosmetic.”
For haulage companies like Renault, metal 3D printing carries a number of advantages. It allows them to optimize the overall operating costs of their fleet of vehicles, as a reduction in engine volume will lead to greater payloads and lower fuel consumption.
In the short-term, this manufacturing procedure can be used for highly specific applications or small runs, the company says. Following these initial tests, engineers at Renault Trucks will continue their work on this manufacturing process to further increase the performance and functionality of truck components.
Renault’s parent company Volvo has also used 3D printing in its engine production processes, cutting production time by 94 percent and reducing manufacturing costs, reports 3DPrint.com.
Other industries including oil and gas, aerospace and medical device makers are also turning to 3D printing to increase manufacturing efficiencies.