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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Road repairs take to the air

Automated road repairs using 3D printing could save money and reduce disruption, reports Kristina Smith

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It’s the middle of the night and in the street below a team is busy carrying out repairs to the road surface. But there isn’t a human in sight.

A road-repair drone has landed at the site of a crack and a 3D asphalt printer is now busy filling in that crack. A group of traffic cone drones have positioned themselves around the repair location to protect the repair drone and divert traffic around it.

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BMW produces its millionth 3D-printed part

BMW has produced its millionth 3D-printed part since starting to use the manufacturing technology, also known as additive manufacturing, a decade ago. It is one of 200,000 parts the OEM will 3D-print this year – a 42% increase on the number produced last year. 

3D-printed window guide rail for a BMW i8 Roadster

While the number is low compared to the 30m parts the carmaker handles every day and will not have any real impact on inbound material flows, the carmaker said it looked forward to producing more parts directly where they were needed.

A spokesperson for the OEM, which has 3D printers operating across its production network, said 3D printed parts represented a first step towards local part production and pointed toward the production of components in Spartanburg (US), Shenyang (China) and Rayong (Thailand) as examples.

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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.

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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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