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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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.

GM bets on 3D printers for cheaper and lighter car parts

General Motors Co said on Thursday it was working with design software company Autodesk Inc to manufacture new, lightweight 3D-printed parts that could help the automaker meet its goals to add alternative-fuel vehicles to its product lineup.

Last year, the company announced ambitious plans to add 20 new electric battery and fuel cell vehicles to its global lineup by 2023. Chief Executive Mary Barra has made a bold promise to investors that the Detroit automaker will make money selling electric cars by 2021.

The ability to print lightweight parts could be a gamechanger for the electric vehicle industry. With consumer concerns over the limited range of electric vehicles a major obstacle to their mass adoption, making them lighter improves fuel efficiency and could help extend that range.

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3D printing: from the automotive design studio to the factory floor

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.

Using additive manufacturing in the automotive industry

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.

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How soon until you’re driving a 3D-printed car?

The BladeFrom 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.

Prototyping

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.”

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Volvo CE’s 3D parts printing

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.”

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Transport XEV plans mass-production 3D printed electric cards

XEV and Polymaker's 3D printed electric car. Photo via Polymaker

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.

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Porsche and Bugatti turn to 3D printing for complex or rare parts

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.

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