- ✓ Accelerate prototyping
- ✓ Fast testing
- ✓ Endless possibilities
Every year, big steps are made in automotive. At a rapidly growing rate, the automotive industry continues to recognise the added value of 3D printing for a vast range of applications. 3D printing in automotive is used for the development of car parts and tools.
With a 3D printer products can be created more quickly compared to traditional methods. While it in some cases may be a prototype and open to alterations, the 3D printed part at least provides an insight into what the product will look like. This offers a truer representation than that of a digital design. 3D printing in automotive is also used for aerodynamic testing. With the help of a 3D printer, highly detailed scaled models of automotive designs can be produced. Accurate models allow design intention to be clearly communicated, offering a more truthful representation compared to a description.
Understanding whether a product will be a success requires a lot of research, especially when it concerns traditional manufacturing methods. However, creating a prototype through 3D printing will make it possible for businesses to obtain feedback from potential customers and investors in a way that could never be achieved before. The product can be customized and altered right up to the very last minute which is something that traditional manufacturing methods do not offer. This means that 3D printing provides a unique and valuable way of identifying whether a product has the potential to make it to market and be successful at the same time.
One of the territories where 3D printing has been most disruptive in the automotive industry is the production of low cost rapid tooling for injection molding, thermoforming, jigs and fixtures. Within the automotive industry this allows for tooling to be quickly fabricated, requiring little money and then used to produce a low to medium volume of parts. This validation minimizes the need (and risk) to invest in expensive tooling at the production stage.
Production volumes in the automotive industry are usually very high so 3D printing is mainly used for prototyping. But since the 3D printing technology is getting more advanced (bigger size, higher speed and more available materials), there are companies using it for medium volume production runs. 3D printing also enables designers to customize parts. As 3D printing in automotive is perfect for one-off productions and building single parts in one process, it means that the ability to customize is there to take advantage of. Parts can be tailored to a specific vehicle (for example custom, lightweight suspension arms) or driver (helmet and seat). Traditional methods relied on molds and cutting and this makes customizing a time-consuming process. In contrast to this, the customization of products created through 3D printing can have enhanced structural integrity, parts can be altered to fit certain requirements and its possible to make complex changes.
The development time of cars can be accelerated with 3D printing. Companies are able to prototype and make the parts quicker as they are not dependent on other third parties. When a design is ready they can immediately manufacture the part by 3D printing it. When a part does not meet their expectations, they can alter the design and print it again within a short amount of time.
The geometry of a part has effect on the weight and aerodynamics of a vehicle. 3D printing provides the opportunity for the fabrication of complex structures which still can be extremely light and stable. This provides a high degree of design freedom.
Many automotive applications require significant heat deflection minimums. 3D printing offers materials that can withstand high temperatures, even those above the 105 degrees Celsius sustained engine compartment temperatures. You can read more about how thermoplastics are a good alternative for metals.
Weight reduction is a very important aspect in the automotive industry. Automotive applications make use of advanced engineering materials and complex geometries in an attempt to reduce weight and improve performance. With 3D printing parts can be produced in lightweight polymers and metals that are commonly used in the automotive industry.
Most components that go into the production of automobiles must be moisture resistant, if not moisture proof. One big advantage of 3D printing in automotive is that all printed parts can be post processed in order to create a water resistant barrier. Additionally, many materials are already suited for humidity like PEEK and PETG.
Part consolidation is a big thing when considering how 3D printing can decrease the amount of materials being utilized, thereby lessening weight and costs. Part consolidation also reduces stock and assemblies can be replaced with a single part, should repairs or maintenance need to take place.