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Automakers Bullish On 3D

3D printing is rewriting the book on how automakers can not only design but also produce vehicle parts. The market for 3D printing within the automotive sector will continue to grow in the coming years.
With this potential and market capacity, practical use of the technology isn’t a far-off concept; automotive 3D printing has already arrived. Today, automakers use stereolithography (SL) 3D-printing processes to produce highly accurate prototypes, ideal for getting the initial touch and feel characteristics of lightweight concept parts. They use selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D-printing processes to produce prototype parts for functional testing. With direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) processes, engineers can continue reducing weight, while achieving well-designed complex parts that are often too difficult to machine.

Immagine

A growing number of automakers are also using 3D printing for end-use production. BMW, for example, has used additive manufacturing to produce over 10,000 parts for its Rolls-Royce Phantom. The company sees additive technologies as one of its “main production methods” in the future, and continues to explore advances in 3D printing to help shorten production times and improve flexibility.

Mercedes-Benz is also using SLS 3D printing to produce high-quality, on-demand spare parts for its trucks. This allows the company to supply spare parts even decades after a model’s production ends, while reducing the stocking and storage of spares that may never be used.

Driving Better Designs

The greatest benefit 3D printing brings to automotive is the ability to create more complex designs, while using fewer lighter parts. The aerospace industry already doing this successfully.

GE, for example, used additive manufacturing to reduce the number of parts in its new turboprop aircraft engine from 855 down to just 12. This decreased the engine’s weight by 5 percent, which in turn will reduce fuel usage 20 percent, and produce 10 percent more power than the competition. Fewer parts will also reduce wear and tear, along with supply chain demands.

Automakers can realize similar benefits in their designs take something like an elbow pipe. Instead of using two straight pipes, an elbow pipe, and flanges to hold them together, those components could be consolidated into a single contoured pipe. This kind of parts reduction creates opportunities to mitigate weight, size, and improve fuel economy, since parts can be printed in complex geometries and organic designs to optimize part performance. It also creates a smaller bill of materials and fewer spare parts to manage long term, while enhancing overall vehicle performance with smoother air and fuel flow.

One of the most exciting aspects of 3D printing is opening the door for designers to unleash their creativity on part designs by incorporating thin walls, web-like lattices, and other elaborate features. Advances in direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), for instance, now enable automakers to create more complex assemblies and intricate parts, such as engine components, that have the properties of metal and would otherwise be too costly or difficult—or even impossible—to machine.

As automakers integrate 3D printing more into their operations, understanding how to get the most out of the process will be crucial. By working with a supplier that understands part orientation as part of the 3D-printing process, for example, companies can produce higher-quality parts that require less secondary finishing.

Manufacturing Flexibility

Greater use of embedded technologies, combined with more vehicle models and feature options, has introduced more complexity into the vehicle design and production processes. In addition to the use of 3D printing, some automotive companies are using other advances in digital manufacturing to better manage this complexity.

With this potential and market capacity, practical use of the technology isn’t a far-off concept; automotive 3D printing has already arrived. Today, automakers use stereolithography (SL) 3D-printing processes to produce highly accurate prototypes, ideal for getting the initial touch and feel characteristics of lightweight concept parts. They use selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D-printing processes to produce prototype parts for functional testing. With direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) processes, engineers can continue reducing weight, while achieving well-designed complex parts that are often too difficult to machine.

A growing number of automakers are also using 3D printing for end-use production. BMW, for example, has used additive manufacturing to produce over 10,000 parts for its Rolls-Royce Phantom. The company sees additive technologies as one of its “main production methods” in the future, and continues to explore advances in 3D printing to help shorten production times and improve flexibility.

Mercedes-Benz is also using SLS 3D printing to produce high-quality, on-demand spare parts for its trucks. This allows the company to supply spare parts even decades after a model’s production ends, while reducing the stocking and storage of spares that may never be used.

Driving Better Designs

The greatest benefit 3D printing brings to automotive is the ability to create more complex designs, while using fewer lighter parts. The aerospace industry already doing this successfully.

GE, for example, used additive manufacturing to reduce the number of parts in its new turboprop aircraft engine from 855 down to just 12. This decreased the engine’s weight by 5 percent, which in turn will reduce fuel usage 20 percent, and produce 10 percent more power than the competition. Fewer parts will also reduce wear and tear, along with supply chain demands.

Automakers can realize similar benefits in their designs take something like an elbow pipe. Instead of using two straight pipes, an elbow pipe, and flanges to hold them together, those components could be consolidated into a single contoured pipe. This kind of parts reduction creates opportunities to mitigate weight, size, and improve fuel economy, since parts can be printed in complex geometries and organic designs to optimize part performance. It also creates a smaller bill of materials and fewer spare parts to manage long term, while enhancing overall vehicle performance with smoother air and fuel flow.

One of the most exciting aspects of 3D printing is opening the door for designers to unleash their creativity on part designs by incorporating thin walls, web-like lattices, and other elaborate features. Advances in direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), for instance, now enable automakers to create more complex assemblies and intricate parts, such as engine components, that have the properties of metal and would otherwise be too costly or difficult—or even impossible—to machine.

As automakers integrate 3D printing more into their operations, understanding how to get the most out of the process will be crucial. By working with a supplier that understands part orientation as part of the 3D-printing process, for example, companies can produce higher-quality parts that require less secondary finishing.

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Manufacturing Flexibility

Greater use of embedded technologies, combined with more vehicle models and feature options, has introduced more complexity into the vehicle design and production processes. In addition to the use of 3D printing, some automotive companies are using other advances in digital manufacturing to better manage this complexity.
Immagine
Immagine

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