AM processes are gradually yet inexorably moving the automotive industry from customized components to mainstream car production.
3D printed spare car parts
3D-printed spare car parts streamline supply chains. Parts printed on-demand reduce or eliminate inventory. Printing automotive parts on-demand potentially address regulatory requirements regarding how long automakers must keep spare parts on hand. A significant reduction in automotive parts inventories maintained for compliance could save many millions of dollars in production and storage costs.
Short-run, automotive components with complex internal structures are often produced more economically using AM processes rather than traditional investment casting, injection molding or CNC machining. Complex components including many parts that previously required time-consuming assembly can now be replaced by single or two-part assemblies. Many inherent qualities of additive manufacturing make it ideal for the localized production of spare car parts.
AM is already making inroads in the production of detailed engine components with complex geometries that reduce the overall number of engine parts. It is inevitable that ever-larger AM systems with greater production capacities will stimulate interest in the 3D printing of larger and larger automotive components. AM processes like SLS and SLA produce dashboards and seat frames from thermoplastic polymers. SLS systems can also use aluminum and other metal powders to fabricate body panels and doors. It is even possible to use SLM and PolyJet technologies to produce tires and hubcaps.
Formula 1 3D supercars with 3D-printed parts
Given AM’s capacity for producing low-weight, high-strength parts, it is understandable that racing teams, supercar manufacturers and custom car fabricators have all been attracted to 3D printing and its distinct advantages. In the demanding world of Formula 1 racing, the need for constant, incremental improvements is a given.
At speeds exceeding 200 mph, minuscule aerodynamic enhancements often determine who enters the winner’s circle and who is an also-ran. Crews also need quick solutions to unexpected damage caused by collisions and road debris. In the ultra-competitive world of auto racing, teams look for anything that will give them an edge, including trackside 3D printing.
Using additive manufacturing, McLaren’s Formula One team produces race-ready parts for its McLaren MCL 32 racer, including rear wing flaps, brake cooling ducts, radio cables and hydraulic line brackets. The process of upgrading and refining designs is often measured in hours rather than weeks. Part lightness is often the goal. McLaren also uses FDM and PolyJet systems at its Woking, England, headquarters to print prototypes and high-strength customized parts.
3D-printed wheel suspension parts for racer delivered a 20-percent increase in stiffness while reducing part weights by 22 percent in the front and 35 percent in the rear. An innovative carbon fiber and titanium drive shaft for student formula racers are more than 73-percent lighter than its traditionally fabricated steel counterpart.
Divergent 3D offers the Blade, promoted as the world’s first 3D-printed supercar. The “industrial-strength chassis incorporates 3D printed nodes connected by carbon fiber tubing that takes just minutes to assemble. The company refers to the “dematerializing” of a locally produced vehicle that is greener, lighter and safer.
Benefits of 3D Printing in the Automotive Industry
Using 3D printing in the automotive industry gives you the following benefits:
> Unsupervised builds VS a CNC Machine that requires a full time operator
> Cost Effective Customization
> Improved quality and speed of prototypes
> Ability to create large prototypes in strong materials such as Ultem
> Increased communication and feedback earlier in the design cycle
> Increased production with optimized tools
> Decreased design time with functional testing
> Cost reductions in engineering documentation, warehousing, and
In-house 3D prototyping can also help to control Intellectual Property (IP) infringements or information leaks as everything is produced on company premises. 3D prototyping can also significantly reduce turnaround times across all stages of manufacturing allowing more agility.
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Unlike traditional approaches to vehicle design (this refers both to light vehicles and trucks) where a variety of materials are used, 3D printing in automotive design allows
lower consumption of materials and wastage which is beneficial for all stages of manufacturing.
3D printer assisted design in the automotive industry allows designers to try multiple options of the same detail and iterations during the stages of new model development. It brings more flexibility, which results in efficient designs and flexibility in making changes in design throughout the process of model evaluation. This in turn helps auto manufacturers stay up to date with market needs and be ahead of the field.
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