Trends in electric cars, autonomous vehicles, and mass customization are forcing automakers and suppliers to adapt.
FREMONT, CA: In order to stay relevant in the age of Industry 4.0, automotive companies are boosting the adoption of 3D printing technologies. 3D printing or Additive Manufacturing (AM) is utilized to cross many car manufacturing stages, from the prototyping and tooling fabrication to spare and end-part production, allowing the automakers to remain agile and innovative.
With 3D printing getting a stronger foothold in the automotive industry, here are three exciting trends shaping the future of technology in the sector.
Integrating AM in automotive series production
The automotive industry was among the very first adopters of 3D printing for quick prototyping. Now, the automakers have identified indirect and direct part production as the final value proposition for AM.
This massive shift reveals that one exciting trend: automotive and 3D printing OEMs are moving down the road to digital mass production. That being said, this journey is not entirely straightforward. The automotive industry has one-of-a-kind production requirements, including very high productivity, low material costs, and an enhanced production automation level.
Meanwhile, the industry is shaped by the changing trends in demand, supply chain dynamics, and regulations, not to mention the drive towards mass customization.
Collaboration fuels AM industrialization in automotive
Together, companies and research institutions are working hard to translate 3D printing into industrialized, automated production processes for car manufacturing.
Increased collaboration is specifically evident in the number of projects launched recently. According to the project, the unit costs of the 3D-printed metal components are set to be more than halved.
Additionally, the industry also seeks to advance polymer AM for car manufacturing. Concerning this, the POLYLINE project marks the milestone for automotive polymer 3D printing.
3D-printed electronics for connected cars
As the world steps into a new era of connected vehicles, electronic devices, such as sensors and antennae within the vehicle, increase. With this rise comes a more significant need for designing and producing smaller and more complex electronics.
3D printing for electronics is developing new ways of producing smart components to network vehicles and gather automotive data.
Typically, such sensors are fabricated separately from the vehicle and need first to be assembled and then shipped to the manufacturer to be finally installed into a component.
The advancements in AM systems for electronics unlock the opportunity to embed these sensors directly into mechanical components and vehicles' structures. This approach can lead to higher reliability and a longer lifetime compared to conventionally assembled sensors.