In the 3D printing community, Ford–the auto manufacturer’s—use of 3D printing in developing both the tools for assembling cars as well as auto parts has become a legend of some sort. This is due to the fact that it was the first automobile manufacturer that set-up a dedicated 3D printing lab to aid its productivity and creative efforts. The Ford experimentation with 3D printing as a means to develop its parts, quickly bore fruits as it helped the company speed up production circles and maximize its expenditure.
These listed benefits where all made possible due to the iterative and rapid prototyping powers 3D printing bestowed on Ford. Additive manufacturing made it possible for the firm to speedily manufacture concepts, test them out with/in actual automobiles and recalibrate errors at will. Successfully integrated concepts where then iteratively manufactured at will as well as in record time thereby creating a case study for other automobile manufacturers to learn from. This lesson was that the 3D printing of auto parts is the future of manufacturing and Ford’s success has led some of its competitors—Honda, Toyota etc.—to look to 3D printing when seeking for innovative solutions for rapid prototyping.
There is also a lesson here for the little guy in the auto business. Here, the little guy means; businesses in the auto customizing industry, mechanic shop owners, smaller car manufacturing companies etc. and that lesson, is that one can gain a competitive edge incorporating 3D printing. Your business does not have to set up its own 3D printing laboratory but it can outsource the building of ideas and concepts to a specialized auto parts manufacturing firm.
Troubleshooting Recalled Cars
The scourge of the auto manufacturing industry has always been little or major errors which have led to the recall of several car brands in recent times. 2017 statistics put the recall number at over 30 million with industry giants such as Nissan, Toyota, BMW and Hyundai leading the way. The cause of these recalls are varied but in many cases, defective car parts led to the recalls which in turn has resulted in millions of dollars’ worth of losses for these car brands.
This how’s to show that recalls, managing recalls and producing effective parts for thousands of cars can benefit from the speed, efficiency and iterative manufacturing techniques 3D printing has to offer. And manufacturers are listening, for Toyota, Hyundai, and BMW have setup or partnered with 3D printing outfits to handle the design and development of 3D printed auto parts. This collaboration has been carried out with the aim of efficiently managing errors that may arise during production.
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Additive manufacturing is here to stay and with the advent of new techniques, industrial 3D printers as well as the work being done in developing durable printing materials, the fourth industrial age has become a reality. And this reality is one the auto industry must tap into to meet its potential, innovate quickly as well as satisfy its teeming customers.
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