Page 27 - Commercial Vehicle Engineer - December 2021
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    the integrity of the component. With that material, the components can get a bit gummy after a while.
“Luckily, the Tool Room printer
can also utilise thermoplastics that
can withstand a transmission’s high oil temps, which in this case we used PC (polycarbonate) providing Allison with a viable method for future testing.”
Manta also printed an oil pan to conduct a test on a transmission. It was more convenient, less costly and a lot lighter than having a metal prototype produced. “Being able to use 3D printed parts to do testing speeds up the process, instead of waiting for an actual prototype to be built,” he says.
Another example of a practical model also made is a programming fixture for the Push Button Shift Selector. Programming fixtures are particularly valuable because they allow Allison to quickly and easily implement software changes.
“It is far more cost-effective to fit check a new part design by using a high-end 3D printer to actually test the part,” says Manta. “We had a situation where we needed a tool to install valve springs.
Using large screwdrivers would scratch the valve body and cause leaks. By printing tools to install the springs and valves, there was no damage. Through this success, we can create a new tool to do the job — all starting from a 3D-printed version.
“You are not limited in how you can machine it. You can print it, test it, make changes and test it again – all within the span of a few hours to a few days. 3D printing reduces the wait time, is more efficient and also saves the company money. It could ultimately lead to more IP (intellectual property), particularly in the case of valve bodies, but also in other cutting-edge applications,” he added.
In the future, 3D printing is likely to become more important in the sector
as the printers are getting more reliable and can use more materials, adds Megan Shamseddeen, project engineer, Embedded Controls Hardware,
Allison Transmission. “The automotive sector is capitalising on it as much
as possible and that is helping to fuel technological development.”
Shamseddeen adds that in the next few years metal 3D printing could be developed commercially, which Allison would be interested in testing and being involved in, especially if it could take the tolerances required to be used in
a transmission.
But while this is still an emerging technology, Manta adds that it is important for Allison to be utilising
3D printing now. “We don’t want to
wait five years until the technology
more established and then start learning how to design for 3D print – we need to start early,” he says. “As mentioned, there is IP – if you don’t put a patent
on it someone else will so that’s another
part of it so we can lock in the design for some components.
“We have to put things on paper and go for it. We are not the only ones doing this so someone will figure it out. We have to reach for higher goals.”
3D printing is just one of the numerous measures Allison is taking to become more sustainable in the way it manufacturers
its transmissions. But it isn’t just manufacturers looking to become more sustainable, Volta’s Forrester adds that pressure is already being put onto the supply chain by Volta and other companies to increase their own sustainable practices and provide more sustainable solutions
for manufacturers.
“Given our sustainability ambitions, all
of our suppliers are working on sustainable solutions throughout the supply chain,”
he says. “But we can always do more, and we will strain every sinew to discover new and sustainable technologies for
the future.
“Technology is developing at such a
rapid pace that there are always more sustainable solutions and options to investigate and adopt.”
Forrester adds that with the pace of development of technology currently,
it’s certain that we will see positive sustainable developments in the coming months and years. “It’s difficult to point to precise details because sometimes some of the smallest details can make the biggest difference,” he says. “Ultimately, we need to look at every part of the
value chain and supply chain, and if everything moved forwards 1%, although it doesn’t sound a lot, the impact would be significant.”
 “Technology is developing at such a rapid pace that there are always more sustainable solutions and options to investigate and adopt”

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