The automotive industry has been transformed by the opportunities provided by additive manufacturing, which is also known as industrial 3D printing. As 3D printing technology and materials have evolved and diversified, 3D printing has moved from an optional technology limited to producing simple prototypes to an integral part of the manufacturing process, from initial conceptualization to production of final parts.
Applications of Additive Manufacturing in the Automotive Industry
Typical applications of additive manufacturing (AM) in the automotive industry include:
Design and concept communication
3D printed scale models allow engineers to communicate and demonstrate design concepts for new vehicles or vehicle components. These models are also used for the aerodynamic testing of new models.
Rapid prototyping and design validation
Vehicle manufacturers are in a continual race to create better products and get them to market faster than their competitors. AM makes this process quicker and more affordable, with its ability to quickly create working prototypes in just a few hours, instead of typical turnarounds of several days or more.
Design optimization and weight reduction
The additive manufacturing process allows manufacturers to use a variety of strategies to reduce weight and optimize the design of parts, including using lighter materials, eliminating non-structural material, or integrating multiple parts into one.
Jigs, fixtures and tooling
In the production stage, additive manufacturing is used to rapidly manufacture grips, jigs and fixtures, as well as make molds for parts. This allows manufacturers to streamline the assembly process and produce customized tools at a low cost.
As 3D printing technology and materials improve, an increasing number of manufacturers are producing end-use parts with additive manufacturing. This manfuacturing process offers greater freedom of design and ability to innovate without sacrificing strength or structural integrity when compared to traditional manufacturing.
Additive manufacturing makes it easy and cost-effective to create unique items or low-volume production runs of custom parts, in a way not previously possible. These are being used to customize new vehicles according to customers' specifications, or retrofit existing vehicles to improve performance or appearance.
With the use of CAD, designs for all parts can be kept as a digital copy, making the need to keep inventory obsolete. Even parts that no longer exist can potentially be remade to requirement, or reverse engineered based on digital scans of existing parts.
Benefits of Additive Manufacturing in the Automotive Industry
Reduced production time
Additive manufacturing provides a much faster turnaround time for prototypes and short-run production than traditional manufacturing. Additional time is saved if multiple parts can be integrated into one design, which eliminates the time and cost of assembly.
Less wasted material
Generally, additive manufacturing produces far less wasted material than traditional manufacturing because the parts are built layer-by-layer, rather than removing unnecessary material from a solid piece or creating unique molds for each part design.
Supply chain optimization
Automotive manufacturers are eliminating delays due to supply chain issues by manufacturing parts on-site or outsourcing to local 3D printing service bureaus.
Reduced energy consumption
Additive manufacturing is far less energy-intensive than traditional manufacturing processes. An additional benefit is lower fuel consumption and pollution due to minimized shipping of raw materials and final product, as parts are manufactured closer to home.
As additive manufacturing is used to create replacement parts and tooling, facilities require less inventory space to store the extra parts. This can reduce overhead and save space.
All of the above factors can result in cost benefits and reductions, especially over time and when compared to traditional manufacturing, yielding a positive return on investment.
Supporting Manufacturers with Industrial 3D Printing
With Tempus’ location in the interior of British Columbia it is uniquely capable of serving British Columbia and Alberta markets with cost-effective overnight shipping and the ability to turn around rush orders in as little as 36 hours. We at Tempus feel this is just the beginning of what manufacturing will look like in the future; it will be more responsive, more custom, and more local allowing innovators across sectors to bring products to market quicker and in a more environmentally friendly way. At Tempus, we are MAKING IT POSSIBLE.”
To learn more about the uses and benefits of additive manufacturing in the automotive industry, read the full article.
Learn more about additive manufacturing with Tempus 3D