Additive manufacturing is driving the future of the automotive industry

Additive manufacturing aligns with the needs of the automotive industry, driving advances in vehicle design. Serial production is a reality today in additive manufacturing (or 3-D printing) as the technologies under this umbrella have advanced to a point where end-use parts can be made of both metal and plastic materials, ready to be put to use in real-world environments. The automotive industry has been a major adopter, with automotive OEMs among the first to install 3-D printers — some 30 years ago, in fact, Ford purchased the third 3-D printer ever made.

2014 Deloitte study pointed to two major areas of influence for 3-D printing in automotive applications: as a source of product innovation and as a driver of supply chain transformation. Over the past nearly half-decade, these predictions have shown to be spot-on as new vehicle models come out faster and sleeker, with digital supply chains reshaping logistics.

Some of the best-known benefits of additive manufacturing align precisely with what automotive OEMs are looking to deliver: faster development cycles, part consolidation, lightweighting, new and custom geometries.

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Automotive sector takes pole position in adoption of additive manufacturing

The automotive industry is one of the biggest users of additive manufacturing (AM), aka 3D printing. The Wohlers Report 2018 estimates that the automotive sector accounts for up to 16% of the entire AM market. The technology is popular with automotive OEMs and their suppliers because it accelerates processes and enables breakthrough design innovations. Tooling is not needed, thus reducing lead times, and 3D printing allows the fabrication of parts that would be impossible or unfeasible using conventional techniques. This enables parts consolidation and optimization of weight-to strength ratios, advancing lightweighting goals.

car emerging from tablet

Additive manufacturing is extensively used in design and development, as it allows designers and engineers to quickly manufacture high-quality parts and models to test and validate designs and reduce time to market. Models can be produced quickly and easily offering near instant access to testing and feedback.

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3D printing technology shakes up parts production for automakers, suppliers

Automakers and suppliers are on the cusp of revolutionary change through their growing use of 3D printing, a technology that can make custom parts on demand and has the potential to mass-produce parts.

Once the technology achieves critical mass, industry analysts say, 3D printing also could affect fixed operations at dealerships.

Many automakers now use 3D printing to make prototype parts for vehicle development, as well as tools and assembly aids for manufacturing operations. Several car companies are looking into making production parts with 3D printers in the next five years. Some automakers currently produce handfuls of small replacement parts, typically interior trim pieces.

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VW introduces 3D printing into mass vehicle production

Volkswagen has become the first automotive manufacturer to use metal 3D printing processes in its vehicle production, the company has revealed.

VW is integrating 3D into its long-term design

The automotive giant is to implement the “HP Metal Jet” process that simplifies and speeds up metallic 3D printing productivity by up fifty times compared with other 3D printing methods.

The project is being delivered with printer manufacturer HP and component manufacturer GKN Powder Metallurgy, with all stakeholders presenting the new process for the first time at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago.

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Daimler, partners launch 3D printing pilot

Daimler and two specialist partners have put into operation a pilot plant that uses 3D printing technology to make components for the automotive and aerospace industries.

The German premium car group worked on the project, which is called NextGenAM, with Premium Aerotec, which develops and produces metal and carbon fiber composite aircraft structures, and EOS, a 3D printing specialist.

The pilot plant, located at a Premium Aerotec facility in Varel in northern Germany, operates various machines for additive manufacturing, post-processing, and quality assurance. The production chain is fully automated, which is a key factor in lowering costs.

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3D printing poised to grow carbon fibre market

3D printing further reduces the cost of labor and machines for carbon fibre parts.

PROMORacetrack

With a growing demand for strong and lighter parts at an affordable cost, manufacturers look to carbon fiber. Unfortunately, the process takes time, manual labor, and might experience variations from part to part. There is a demand for automating carbon fiber processes. 3D printing has integrated carbon fiber, but like the traditional process, it took time and while it reduced cost by minimizing manual labor that was offset but expensive machines. Stratasys previewed at RAPID 2018 a new carbon fiber printer that reduces the barrier with an industrial quality system that is being offered at $70,000 USD. The 3D printer, Fortus 380 CFE, began shipping last week.   

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What 3D printing holds for Indian automakers

Indian automakers such as Tata Motors and Maruti Suzuki are riding the 3D printing revolution for prototyping of car models with the hope of eventually using it for manufacturing. 

What 3D printing holds for Indian automakers      

Looking for a spare part for your old Hyundai Santro or Chevrolet Beat that’s no longer in production, but haven’t had much luck so far? No worries. Automakers are working on a unique solution to help you out: three dimensional or 3D printing.

Huh? What does 3D printing have to do with car parts? You’ll be surprised, but global automakers are using the cool technology to produce spare parts for vintage models. If you’re still baffled and wondering how this works, it’s really quite simple. Basically, 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is the technology of assembling three-dimensional objects layer by layer using lasers or electron beams guided by a computer.

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3-D and the Global Supply Chain

Over the last 5 years, 3-D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has had a tremendous influence in our industry. It is considered the current and future of almost any conceivable form of fabrication.  Though this technology has been embraced by enthusiasts from small-time makers to international aerospace ventures, questions about its cost effectiveness are paramount to widespread adoption. Here’s why.

Costs of production for additive manufacturing fall into two categories: “well-structured” costs, such as labor, material, and machine costs, and “ill-structured” costs, which can include machine setup, inventory, and build failure.  Right now, most cost studies focus on well-structured costs, which comprise a significant portion of 3-D printing production and are cited by detractors as evidence of cost ineffectiveness. Unfortunately, these studies focus on the production of single parts and tend to overlook supply chain effects, thus failing to account for the significant cost benefits which are often concealed within inventory and supply chain considerations.

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Metal 3D printing’s day is coming in automotive

The world is undergoing some radical transformations related to the concept of “motorized transport.” This term was once synonymous with the automobile and the internal combustion engine, along with the conventional infrastructure supporting this technology like asphalt roads, filling stations and repair shops.

However, new technologies are rapidly expanding this category to include a variety of experimental transport solutions like gas-electric hybrids, fully-electric autonomous cars, eBikes, hyperloop elevated trains, jetpacks and flying cars. Given these advancements, it’s difficult to predict which approach will best fulfill our need for personal transport. However, I can safely say that metal 3D printing will be an even bigger part of the solution than it is today.

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Audi to use Stratasys 3D printing to accelerate design verification

The German automotive manufacturer, Audi, has integrated the Stratasys J750 3D printer into its design operations.

Audi is using the Stratasys J750 printer to produce parts for prototypes

The printer, the world’s only full-colour, multi-material 3D printer, has been adopted by Audi to innovate and accelerate its design process.

The firm has found that it is able to produce prototypes efficiently and effectively through additive manufacturing.

At its Pre-Series Centre in Ingolstadt, Germany, Audi has been able to reduce the prototyping time for its tail light covers by 50% since implementing the Stratasys printer, against methods such as moulding and milling.

“Design is one of the most important buying decisions for Audi customers, therefore it’s crucial we adhere to supreme quality standards during the design and concept phase of vehicle development,” explains Dr. Tim Spiering, Head of the Audi Plastics 3D Printing Centre.