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How 3D Printing is Disrupting the Automotive Industry

  • by: Conor McKeon
  • On: 12, Oct 2018
2 min read

Modern cars are made up of anywhere between 20,000 to 30,000 individual parts. 3D Printers allow for greater precision at faster speeds, as well as more customisation for consumers. We can now design our own homes, clothes, and shoes, so it’s only logical that this would eventually extend to our cars as well. In 2015 16% of the 3D Printing market was taken up by car manufacturing, and this number will rise in the coming years as technology is refined and upgraded.

Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are increasingly using 3D Printing to generate cheaper car parts. Rapid tooling can increase productivity, shortening lag times between order, production and product rollout. 3D Printers are making car prototypes that are lower-cost and disposable. By 2023 3D Printing is predicted to be worth $2.7 billion. Here’s how 3D Printing will impact the Automotive industry.

5 Ways 3D Printing is Changing the Automotive Industry

1. Vehicle Design

Early-stage Automotive design is being revolutionised by 3D Printing. Allowing designers to start small and scale up as and when they need to, Automotive manufacturers have greater control over the process long before the production line. Car designers can test multiple different forms and design options, bringing them to a refined finalised model. Every detail of the car can then be made at a much smaller scale to see how everything fits together. Two 3D Printers work in tandem to create an accurate one-tenth scale replica without any assembly.

2. Lowering Costs

Industrial 3D Printing is beneficial when it comes to building complex or rare parts that traditional Automotive manufacturing could only produce at high cost. 3D Printing can cut the time it takes to make a car model in half, and in some cases at less than 10% of the cost of using traditional Automotive manufacturing methods.

3. Customisation

Customising interiors is very expensive for Automotive manufacturers. Mass production of a feature in low-volume vehicles can be too expensive for OEMs to justify. 3D Printing provides a low-cost solution, allowing for individual units to be made as and when the demand is there, which also limits excessive waste of materials.

4. More Durable, Accurate Tests

Designing Automotive prototype parts that are able to withstand functionality tests can be expensive. But with 3D Printing there’s no compromise on quality, meaning the car parts can stand heat and chemical tests. These parts are often made of thermoplastics, which have a weight-to-performance ratio similar to aluminium alloys used in the same performance tests. Some thermoplastics are resistant to temperatures up to 186 degrees Celsius.

5. Increased Fuel Efficiency

Because of the lower weight of parts made from plastic, the overall weight of the car is reduced. This has a direct impact on the fuel efficiency of the vehicle. It’s not surprising that Lotus, Jaguar and BMW are all investing in weight reduction technology, because consumers are waking up to the fact that a fuel-efficient car will save them money in the future.

Only time will tell if 3D Printing will become widespread across all industries or will ever be able to mass-create fully customisable cars. But one thing is clear: Automotive manufacturers will continue to explore and invest in this exciting technology.

Read more about some of the biggest technological innovations of 2018, and how technology is changing the automotive industry.

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