The automotive industry faces challenges on several different fronts – from the construction of better, new and perfectly functioning vehicles, to the optimization of production, supply chains and logistics.
And one of the technologies that helps her cope with all these challenges is 3D printing. With each passing year, 3D printing is increasingly used in the automotive industry, allowing designers and constructors to meet consumer expectations.
3D and the making of models of automobile parts
The days when the main use of 3d printing technology in the automotive industry was rapid prototyping and the creation of tools and gadgets are long gone. Today, car companies are increasingly using 3D to print car parts and personal car models.
According to a report by the research company Smart Tech Publishing for the automotive sector, 3D printing is increasingly used for the production of automotive parts. Analysts predict that by 2029, the printed parts market will generate up to and over $ 9 billion.
How to print auto parts with 3D?
In fact, if you want to print parts for your car and have a home printer, you can do it yourself. We say this with the clarification that not all auto parts are suitable for printing at home. Therefore, you should first look for information on whether the part can be printed on a home printer or you need to look for a company that offers 3d services.
Scan the part
The most commonly used method for scanning and designing a part in a 3d file is by using software such as CAT. If you can’t work with such software or don’t have it on hand, you can search websites that offer ready-made files or just use a 3D scanner.
Choice of technology
Different printers are designed to solve specific problems. Therefore, you need to be careful when choosing the technology you will use for printing. For example, if the parts you want to print are small or require post-processing such as priming and painting, the appropriate technology is FDM / FFF (layer-by-layer sintering method).
However, if you need moving parts such as gears and others, then you will need photopolymer printing technology (DLP / SLS / SLA). For printing interior components, handles, buttons, levers as well as all elements of the gear and other parts that require high accuracy and precision, the appropriate technology is DLP or SLA.
Choice of materials
According to the technology used, you have to focus on the material. To make it clearer, we will say it like this:
If you use an FDM printer, suitable materials are usually ABC, PVS, ASA or nylon
If you use DLP / SLS / SLA technology, the more suitable materials are photopolymers (resins)
Printing car parts is fast and requires almost no effort. You just need to set up the printer, place the file with the information about the specifics of the part and let it work. Depending on the size and complexity of the part, the time to print a prototype is from a few minutes to several hours.
Why is it necessary to print a prototype?
Thanks to the prototype you can see, touch and feel exactly what the final result of printing will look like. And if the result does not satisfy you, you can make adjustments.
If from everything said so far you are still wondering whether 3D technology is directly involved in the manufacture of automotive parts, the shortest answer we can give you is “yes”. Participates actively. Currently, almost all car companies offer car models with components made entirely on a printer.
Automotive companies that use printed auto parts in their production
Ford Motor Company
Ford was one of the first automotive companies to use 3D printing technology and is looking for ways to increasingly integrate this technology into its production cycle. So it’s no surprise that their latest model, the Ford Shelby GT500, includes 3D printed brakes. Printed brakes are created entirely using Carbon’s Digital Car Synthesis (DLS) adaptive printing technology, with EPX material.
BMW has been experimenting with printing for years, and since 2010 the popular car brand has been printing more than 50,000 components and over 10,000 individual spare parts. The company was also one of the first to start printing metal parts with a 3D printer.
Did you know that in the BMW i8 Roadster model, the roof console is fully printed, and the new BMW M850i Coupe has a printed brake caliper?
Unlike the other two giants in the automotive industry, Volkswagen is still embarking on the production of 3d printed auto parts. However, their “debut” is phenomenal. The car company in collaboration with the German 3D company – Laser Zentrum Nord created the largest titanium functional component of Bugatti, produced by adaptive methods.
Bugatti’s eight-piston monoblock brake caliper is printed on the largest titanium 3D printer.
Why are more and more car companies using 3D to produce car parts and components?
Custom, complex and highly efficient parts are created
Adaptive printing is ideal for the production of personalized spare parts with significantly reduced costs. It won’t be long before you can just go to the auto parts store and ask them to print the item you need.
Parts that are not used in modern cars are produced
With the help of this technology, designers can easily produce parts for retro cars that have not been produced for a long time. All that needs to be done is to scan the item and after only a few hours the retro part can be in the hands of the customer.
Problems such as demand and prices of car parts are solved
The demand and supply of auto parts is one of the great challenges in the automotive sector. The growing penetration of 3D technology in manufacturing can address this problem. Because manufacturers keep CAT files and it is enough to simply program the printer and produce the quantities they need to meet demand. And since the printing of the elements does not require much effort, time or money, the printed parts are offered at much lower prices than standard products.
Offer consolidation of parts
The number of parts and components in any of the car’s systems can be reduced by redesigning into a single component. Consolidation of parts is one of the huge advantages that 3D printing technology provides. Thanks to the consolidation, the cost of materials, the total weight of the parts and the time for assembly and disassembly are reduced.
Parts with much lower weight are produced
In the automotive sector, one of the big demands is how to optimize and reduce the overall weight of the car. Well, with the help of 3D printing this problem has a “see” end. This is possible because lightweight polymers and metals are used in the printing of the parts, which significantly reduces the weight of the parts and hence the total weight of the car.
Prototypes and real car parts with complex geometry are produced
The influence of weight and aerodynamics (and hence the performance of the car) depends on the geometry of a part. Sometimes this geometry is quite complex and to produce a certain element by traditional methods requires a lot of time, effort and extremely high precision. The technology of 3D printing allows the production of very complex structures, which are both light and very stable.
It also allows:
- great freedom of design
- optimization and integration of additional functions
- production of small batches of parts
- product customization even in series production