The automotive industry is an excellent application of additive manufacturing (AM) or better known as 3D printing. In 2015, the automotive industry was already accounting for over 16 percent of all industrial 3D printing. The advancements made in industrial AM printing machines and materials suitable to the automotive industry is making it a viable option for product innovation and future manufacturing production.
As was previously mentioned, automotive 3D printing is already having a major impact on the industry. Below are some ways it is being successfully used.
- Making of Accurate Scale Models: Scale models are used to showcase the form of a vehicle and often used for aerodynamic testing. Stereolithography (SLA) is an additive manufacturing process used to produce highly detailed, smooth, scale models of automotive designs. Such detailed models allow design teams to accurately exhibit their concepts.
Making of Accurate Scale Models:
- Making of Prototypes: The production of prototypes of automotive parts is routine in additive manufacturing these days. By using low-cost Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), part prototypes can be made in high detail and full color. Some AM materials will also allow these prototypes to be performance tested.
Making of Prototypes:
- Making of Injection Molds, Grips, Jigs, and Fixtures: Additive manufacturing is presently being used to quickly produce low-cost injection molds. These low-cost injection molds are able to make a production run of 10 – 100 parts. The performance of the part can be validated before investing in high-production, high-cost manufacturing equipment. Grips, jigs, and fixtures can also be produced at a low-cost. They can then be tested and modified before being used on a production line.
Making of Injection Molds, Grips, Jigs, and Fixtures:
- Production and Customization: Additive manufacturing is not ready for high production runs of parts, but advancements made in size and speed of printing machines can support medium-sized production runs. This ability makes AM a viable option to makers of high-end vehicles that are produced in limited numbers. The ability of AM designs to be easily altered makes it usable in customizing vehicles. Either high performance parts can be tailored to a specific vehicle model and size, or parts such as seats can be tailored made for the driver.
Production and Customization:
3D Hubs is an online 3D printing service specializing in quality parts made in a timely manner.
“Can You Shave Off Some of that Weight?”
Engineers are constantly looking for ways to design parts that are lighter. Other than the material used to make a part, they can change the geometry to reduce material needed while maintaining part integrity.
AM manufacturing is very well suited to produce parts with optimized geometries and still maintain the integrity of the part. Lighter parts mean better fuel mileage for road vehicles and greater speeds for racing vehicles.
“Can You Cut Down on Assembly Time?”
Am technology has the unique ability to manufacture whole parts, whereas, with traditional manufacturing, several components have to be made and assembled. This technology reduces labor, labor costs, and production time.
“I Need That Part Yesterday!”
Unlike other methods of manufacturing, speed is a strong point for AM. Especially for racing teams is manufacturing speed necessary. A new and better design wanted for the next race. Broken parts that need to be replaced. With advancement in AM software and printing materials, speed of production and performance go hand in hand.
“Can You Give Me A Real-Life Example of AM Possibilities?”
Formula Student is an international student design competition started by the Society of Automotive Engineers. The international competition takes place on race tracks.
To optimize their car, Formula Student Germany wanted to design and build a reliable, lightweight axle-pivot in the shortest possible time. The pivot had to be able to endure the ever-changing loads that racing cars are subjected to, and at the same time, help reduce the overall weight of the car.
By optimizing the geometry of the pivot, the final product was a single component that was 35 percent lighter than the original design and improved rigidity by 20 percent. AM technology helped Formula Student Germany produce their lightest car to date.
The future for 3D printing is a bright one in the automotive industry. 3D Hubs is a leader in automotive 3D printing. They are helping automotive engineers and designers make parts cheaper, quicker, lighter, and stronger.