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.
The automotive industry is in a state of flux. Significant swings in gas prices, as well as environmental and political pressures, challenge the industry to balance between the economics of gas guzzling SUVs and lightweight electric vehicles. Ride-sharing and shared ownership business models are gaining momentum, and leaps in technology have put autonomous vehicles on the road, changing the way we view our use of cars. Automotive manufacturers must adapt to all that change, whilst also facing the age-old challenge of minimizing p roduction costs. Scott Sevcik, VP Manufacturing Solutions at Stratasys, considers 3D printing – the definition of disruptive technology – and its role supporting the automotive industry as it adjusts to a new reality.
The automotive industry was one of the first to really grasp the benefits of 3D printing. Long used as a tool for rapid prototyping, it was this industry that led high-end 3D printer and material sales in recent years, but this was often kept under wraps as cagey design studios withheld their secret weapon. By slashing design costs and timescales, even contributing to better design by enabling adaptations on the fly with multiple iterations in a matter of hours, 3D printing has made a significant contribution to the automotive design process. As the technology and materials continue to advance even further, it’s a trend set to stay for the foreseeable future.
From Volkswagen to Porsche, this innovative process is finding a home in your garage.
3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, has been growing in the automotive industry over the years. While some companies work on integrating every benefit of 3D printing into a completely new design, other companies are looking for the low-hanging fruit to dip their toe in as they target specific parts that can be printed within the current vehicle designs. This article will review how 3D printing has been affecting the automotive market, and what some companies are doing to capture its benefits.
While this sounds like everyone is already using 3D printing for prototyping, the hype doesn’t necessarily match real life. From an interview in 2016, Scott Dunham, vice president of research for SmarTech Publishing, had this to say: “For example, the vast majority of the current deployments in the industry are around rapid prototyping for automobile design to cut down lead times on designing new models or revisions. Although with only around 15% to 20% penetration currently, we estimate a lot of room to grow in rapid prototyping.”
Volvo CE says that it will utilise 3D parts printing technology to supply customers. The firm says that this will allow it to supply quality components quickly and at lower cost to customers. By using 3D parts printing the firm also says it will be able to carry out prototype testing of components more speedily than in the past.
“We are supporting customers through the life cycle of their equipment,” said Jasenko Lagumdzija, anager of Business Support at Volvo CE. “It’s especially good for older machines where the parts that have worn out are no longer made efficiently in traditional production methods. Producing new parts by 3D printing cuts down on time and costs, so it’s an efficient way of helping customers.”
Award winning 3D printer filament manufacturer Polymaker has partnered with Italian car manufacturer XEV to make 3D printed low-speed electric vehicles (LSEVs).
While XEV’s LSEVs aren’t the first ever 3D printed cars, the partners believe that this is the first example of additive manufacturing vehicles at scale.
Stanley Lu, CEO of XEV, provided 3D Printing Industry with more information on the Polymaker partnership and its success in developing a serial 3D printing production line cutting down the time and boosting customization of the everyday car.
Additive manufacturing is starting to gain acceptance among automakers
The last time we looked at 3D printing in the automotive world, it was still a technique limited to startups like Divergent 3D or Local Motors. But in the last few months, there’s been growing evidence that the big OEMs are waking up to the advantages of additive manufacturing. In recent weeks, we’ve seen Bugatti reveal that it has been 3D printing brake calipers out of titanium, followed soon after by news that Porsche has been using the technique to recreate out-of-stock parts for its classic cars.
Bugatti’s bespoke brakes
In Bugatti’s case, the brand turned to 3D printing to see if it could cut some weight from the front brake calipers on the Chiron hypercar. For the production Chiron, the eight-piston calipers are made from forged aluminum alloy, resulting in a component that weighs 10.8lbs (4.9kg). By comparison, the printed version weighs just 6.4lbs (2.9kg) but manages to have a higher tensile strength. Bugatti turned to Laser Zentrum Nord in Hamburg, Germany for the project.
Shanghai’s 3D printing Cultural Museum showcased a display of world’s first 3D printing electric vehicle named LSEV. The tech-genius is expected to be made available in the markets by April 2019.
The startup electric vehicle company is exhibiting its first 3D-printed LSEV at Shanghai’s China 3D printing Cultural Museum before its show at the Auto China 2018 in Beijing. Enthusiasts will have to wait another year.
Essen/Berlin – DB Schenker plans to deploy innovative solutions to meet the rising expectations of customers in the automotive sector. This will see the logistics service provider focus on the latest developments in the car industry, such as 3D printing to manufacture replacement parts, in addition to continuing its provision of long-established core services. Schenker wants to devote its energy to meeting the technological requirements of “additive production” and maintaining its progress in this field. The major benefit for customers takes the form of reduced warehousing costs, as spare parts are manufactured only when they are required. Faster production reduces delivery times. Similarly, DB Schenker plans to strengthen its market position by specializing in storing and transporting lithium batteries. Battery logistics entail extremely complex processes, as car batteries are classified as hazardous items requiring special transportation and storage.
“Our declared aim is to offer our customers around the globe the best logistics services in the aftermarket sector. Thanks to our vast experience in the automotive sector, our highly trained specialists and our dedicated innovation and quality programs, I am confident that we will achieve this aim,” says Stephan Allgeier, Vice President Vertical Market Automotive – Global Business Development Schenker AG.
Porsche has a huge supply of spare parts to keep its classic cars on the road, but it doesn’t have everything. Supplies of certain components run out, and often, it’s way too expensive to build a bunch more, especially for limited-production cars like the 959. That’s why Porsche Classic has turned to 3D printing to make limited numbers of certain spare parts.
Right now, Porsche is manufacturing nine spare parts using 3D printers, and it’s testing 20 more for production viability. The parts offered now include the clutch-release lever for the 959, a crank arm for the 964, and others.
Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) announced Monday that it will make its first delivery of plastic parts produced using 3D printing technologies to its customers in the coming weeks, as part of a pilot programme.
The company is confident that these new technologies will soon play a significant role in the trucking industry.
More importantly, DTNA sees 3D printing as an opportunity to better serve its customers, particularly those customers in need of parts that have been difficult to provide through traditional supply chain models, such as those for older trucks or parts with very low or intermittent demand.
During this pilot phase, DTNA says it will release a controlled quantity of 3D printed parts and will invite feedback from customers and technicians that receive them.