3D Printing at Stratasys—Printing Technologies

Recently I had a chance to visit the world market leader in 3D printing, Stratasys, together with my students. We went to their location in Rheinmünster, Germany, near the Baden-Baden airport. While I always keep a bit of an eye on new developments in 3D printing, it was quite refreshing to get an update on the latest developments from the source. In this first post I will look in more detail at their different printing technologies, before I look a bit into their markets in the second post.

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A Frequent Mistake—Undoing an Assembly Line—Part 2

Skoda Car Assembly LineAssembly lines are THE way to do mass production. Yet, with constant regularity people try out to undo the assembly line, only to fail in their endeavor. In my previous post I looked at examples by Volkswagen in Salzgitter, Volvo in Kalmar, and Opel in Bochum, who all tried, just to switch back to an assembly line afterwards. This second post in this series has more historical examples of when people tried and failed to undo assembly lines in mass production.

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A Frequent Mistake—Undoing an Assembly Line—Part 1

Automotive Assembly C Hangers
Assembly lines no more?

Assembly lines are everywhere in mass production. From mobile phones to cars to airplanes, almost all items produced in large quantities come from an assembly line. Just look around you wherever you are and try to find a produced item that did NOT come from an assembly line. My general recommendation is that if you can make it on an assembly line, then you probably should make it on an assembly line.

However, assembly lines are not always loved by the workers. Every few years, another—usually European—car maker is in the news about undoing the assembly line in favor of group work, box assembly, assembly stations, and the like. So far, all of these initiatives have dwindled and died, simply because the assembly line is the best! Let’s have a look at the long list of car companies that tried and failed with undoing the assembly line. The assembly line is still king in manufacturing!

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The Evolution of Automotive Assembly Line—Part 2

Automotive Assembly Moving PlatformIn my previous post on the automotive assembly line I showed how the earliest chain-driven assembly lines evolved to modern moving platforms. However, in automotive assembly, you also need to work underneath the car. While I have seen truck assembly lines where the entire undercarriage is flipped on its back, in automotive, this is usually done while the car is hanging. Let’s have a look how this is done, and then I’ll wrap up this post with the last bit of the assembly line where the car stands on its own wheels.

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The Evolution of Automotive Assembly Line—Part 1

Hyundai moving walkable platform assembly lineAutomotive assembly is one of the pinnacles of modern manufacturing, having a very complex product of 30 000 parts as well as mass production in large quantities. The modern automotive moving assembly line is hence one of the most complex manufacturing operations in the world. In this two-post series I will look at how this changed over time, and the different ways there are to move cars along the assembly line.

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The BMW Finger Line Layout

As part of my grand tour of German automotive, I visited the BMW plant in Leipzig. As of now, this is my second most favorite German automotive plant, after BMW in Munich. I will talk more about this quite well-organized and indeed beautiful plant in a later post series, but in this post I’m going to explain their very interesting and novel way to set up their assembly line. They call this the finger structure or comb structure (Fingerstruktur or Kammstruktur) because the line layout looks like the fingers of a hand or the teeth of a comb. I found this approach quite unique, and hence would like to share it with you.

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Variable Takt at Fendt in Marktoberdorf—Part 3

This is the third post in my series on how Fendt handles its rather large variability. As mentioned before, all of their tractors—eleven different models with countless variants—come from the same assembly line in Marktoberdorf. This includes small tractors that are just barely one meter wide and huge ones as you see here on the left. Imagine assembling motor bikes, cars, and trucks on the same assembly line, and you are getting close to the variability that Fendt has to deal with. Overall, this makes Fendt in my view one of the leading plants in the world in handling variability.

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Variable Takt at Fendt in Marktoberdorf—Part 2

In my previous post I started to show you how Fendt uses the distance between tractors on their assembly line to manage their quite high variability. By changing the distance between parts on the line, you can adjust the takt time for each part on the assembly line, hence the name Variable Takt. But this still leaves a lot of variability, as not all stations will have the same identical workload. In this and the next post I will go deeper into how Fendt manages its variability. This will be good, since Fendt is one of the benchmark plants in the world in handling variability.

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