3D Printing and What It Means For the Automotive Industry

In recent years, the 3D printing industry has seen explosive growth. It seems like there are new companies popping up everyday with their own version of the printers. Three-dimensional printers are part of an ever-expanding manufacturing industry, and with each passing year, their print times shorten and the amount of printable materials increases. Automotive companies like Ford have already invested in this technology to make prototypes, and even NASA is adopting this new tech.

These printers work by depositing a thin layer of a selected material on top of a previous layer, gradually building up the object. The ability to literally print parts from scratch will give companies and hobbyists alike, a number of advantages.

Check out the clip of a turbocharger housing being printed at the 2014 SEMA Summit.

Set-up Shop Anywhere
Traditional manufacturing processes can take weeks or even months to deliver new parts, not to mention, they require huge facilities. If you’re not looking to get into manufacturing, you can still print items from the comfort of your own workshop in a variety of materials, NASA even created a food printer for the International Space Station.

A Do-It-Yourselfer’s Dream
With 3D printers, production possibilities are endless. The printers are able to produce any object without having to create a mold. This means, hobbyists and do-it-yourselfers can produce one-of-a-kind trim pieces for their vehicle or home.

Research, Develop, Print
Early test methods involved having a small number of parts produced to test. However, when a part didn’t perform quite like the engineers had believed it would, production and testing would come to a standstill. Companies now have the ability to print a part, test it, and make any necessary changes before sending it to production. Ford has been aggressively adopting 3D printers to reduce costs and part development. They have managed to cut development times by 25% and can now send sand molds directly to a foundry instead of making a second casting.

Hard To Find Parts
As years pass, the availability of parts for older car models becomes more and more scarce. Utilizing a 3D printer, part manufacturers or even hobbyists could make a replacement for that hard to find piece. You might also expect to see more one-of-a-kind vehicles and modifications on the road in the near future.

Going Green
There has been a majorpush for the green movement in recent years. Unfortunately, in manufacturing, waste is always an issue. Three-dimensional printers offer a solution to this age-old problem. Instead of producing large batches of parts, of which some may never be used, printers can make the exact number of parts that are needed. This will reduce unused inventory and wasted material.

Three-dimensional printers stand to make a large impact not only within the automotive industry but many other aspects of daily life. We will see more and more products being printed in the very near future.

2 thoughts on “3D Printing and What It Means For the Automotive Industry”

  • norman e

    need more info on producing auto parts need a water reservoir for a 95 Pontiac grand am

  • Scot Clemons

    Thank you for taking interest in this article, it was written mainly as an introduction to the topic of 3D printing. However, we do not actually do any 3D printing ourselves. We suggest looking into some companies that do rapid prototyping or 3D printing in general, they may be able to come up with something for you!

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