3D Printing Reshaping the Automotive Industry

Auto Tech Outlook | Saturday, November 27, 2021

The adoption of 3D printing will continue to rise as the automotive sector widely recognizes the usefulness of 3D printing, and as the technology and material options become more diverse.

Fremont, CA: For many years, 3D printing has been an essential element of the vehicle development process. Recently, though, we've begun to see 3D printing applications spread across the manufacturing industry. 3D printing has the potential to contribute substantial value to supply chains by enabling a wide range of manufacturing applications. Companies are able to bring additive manufacturing in-house to support procedures on the factory floor as the technology becomes more feasible and inexpensive.

Some of the ways 3D printing is reshaping the automotive industry:

Easing general part manufacturing

As 3D printing technologies become more cost-effective in terms of the hardware and materials required, we will witness a gradual shift toward the production of standard car parts. The variety of materials available through 3D printing is beginning to meet the mechanical needs of various vehicle components. As additive technologies approach cost parity with traditional processes (e.g., moulding, die-casting), it will make more sense to incorporate 3D printing into general parts manufacturing from a productivity and financial standpoint.

Producing tooling and manufacturing aids

Engineers employ manufacturing aids to simplify and improve manufacturing and assembly processes, reducing cycle times and increasing worker safety. When compared to outsourcing parts to an external vendor, additive manufacturing can shorten lead time to a few hours while also drastically lowering prices. The parts can also be better tuned for their end-use because complexity does not impose additional costs. New, more durable 3D printing materials have also enabled producers to replace metal components with 3D printed plastic parts in many circumstances, or to prototype and test equipment before making a final decision.

Reshaping the prototyping process

Automotive designers may swiftly construct a prototype of a physical part or assembly using 3D printing, which can range from a small interior element to a dashboard or even a scale replica of an entire car. Companies can use rapid prototyping to turn ideas into credible proofs of concept. These ideas can then be developed into high-fidelity prototypes that closely resemble the final product, guiding items through a succession of validation phases on their way to mass production. This speedy validation is critical in the automotive business.

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