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Additive Manufacturing in the Automotive Industry

Additive manufacturing is leading to 3D printing and supports the automotive industry in three fundamental techniques. Firstly, it facilitates rapid prototyping with 3D printed models that stimulate production’s design and testing stages.

Further, it enables manufacturers to impress spare parts to match their necessities. Lastly, additive manufacturing of composite materials safeguards automotive parts that are easier, harder, and more long-lasting.

Advantages of Additive Manufacturing 

Additive manufacturing has matured to a high priority, with this technology steadily being used in development and propagation in the automotive industry. As a result, ideas can be achieved faster, time and funds can be saved. Momentum and flexibility deliver improvements over the competition. Various car parts and prototypes are generated with the aid of additive manufacturing, and therefore, is the faster performance of the series maturity is conceivable. In prototyping, fixtures, stock, and assembly assistance, additive manufacturing technology has become the standard, with end products ready in various robust and flexible materials. German RepRap has been fulfilling the BMW Group for many years. The German RepRap x500 has been employed to produce prototypes in the range of pre-development, which serves to secure the deadlines, expenses, and quality purposes.

The importance of additive manufacturing (AM) technology is complex from classic spare parts, from old-timers that are no longer allowed to tools and auxiliary equipment to characteristics used as end products. However, the most decisive advantage is the tremendous degree of design freedom.

AM enables designers to develop entirely new approaches in terms of design and function. Components with complex structures and bionic shapes, tricky or even impossible to complete, can be accomplished relatively simply, more active, and in suitable quality with this technology. Furthermore, German RepRap extends the corresponding material diversity. High-temperature, fiber-reinforced or flexible materials are used in different areas, depending on the application’s requirements. In extension, the car manufacturer profits from a shorter production time and lower costs because no tools have to be produced anymore.

Reduce Storage and Inventory Costs

With distributed manufacturing, companies can design in one location and manufacture in another closer to the customer, eliminating storage and reducing inventory costs. In addition, when coupled with 3D printing, distributed manufacturing can help replace an often inefficient “make-to-stock” with a “make-to-order” model.

We’ve seen distributed manufacturing become an essential method for businesses, especially during the pandemic. Healthcare and medical device OEMs had to reduce their dependence on global supply chains and logistic costs and rely on distributed manufacturing to produce products in short supply like ventilators, masks, and other personal protective equipment (PPE). Several large additive manufacturing companies cited production speed and distributed manufacturing as critical enablers in the fight against COVID-19.

When additive manufacturing is applied appropriately, the potential to advance manufacturing supply structures will only improve. 3D printing paired with distributed manufacturing can help industries create a more efficient, sustainable, and transparent supply chain.

Enormous savings potential frequently still steals in the production methods of the companies. The use of additive manufacturing can collect resources such as time and money to optimize processes. Supplier bottlenecks can be avoided. The matter of flexibility is often a deciding factor, especially when it comes to faster target attainment.

A Growing Portion of End-use Parts

Additionally, amazing OEMs have been involved in 3D printing to produce end-use parts beyond accelerated prototyping applications. There are many causes for this, which can be summed up as a search for product innovation in an aggressive sector like automotive. One way to manage product innovation is to dramatically advance the performance of a part by decreasing its weight. Product innovation by customization is also of great interest, particularly for luxury carmakers.

Indeed, an improvement of using AM is the inherent production of lower-weight components to generate fewer fuel vehicles. Over time, CAD and CAM solutions have drastically enhanced, especially for additive fabrication. They incorporate topology optimization, generative design, and lattice generation tools, which degrade the overall weight of parts while maintaining or improving their function. Lighter parts are often more complex. But since AM is not limited in design freedom, complexity doesn’t constitute a challenge, unlike conventional methods. It should be remarked that part simplification is also good thanks to AM by consolidating multiple parts into a single design. Therefore, assembly complexity could be reduced long-term if a high volume of these parts needed to be produced.

AM also means greater personalization possibilities. Some luxury carmakers already use AM to achieve designs specialized to client necessities. Conventional manufacturing methods like CNC or injection molding wouldn’t accommodate unique parts supporting competitive lead times. The price of producing the before-mentioned parts would also be considerably different. Moreover, personalization can also be utilized to provide spare parts to repair an older car model.

Prospect of Automotive AM Applications

Automakers have had to search for new business models to accomplish growth. Many look forward to innovative technologies, including additive manufacturing, to support short development cycles and more inexpensive costs. The electrification of transports is of interest, with around 50% of automotive manufacturers striving to be market leaders in fully electric vehicles soon. As manufacturing moves away from internal combustion engines, 3D printing rises as a solution to speed up the development of lighter parts for electric cars. Indeed, light-weighting is critical for electric vehicles because it directly impacts battery time.

3D Printed Minibus Olli

In the EV sector, Olli, a 3D-printed autonomous electric minibus is designed by Local Motors in 2016. The manufacturer requires approximately 80% of parts to be 3D printed, which reduced overall production time by 90%. In addition, the speed is limited to 40km/h, making Olli suitable for the urban city center, university academia, and hospitals. Before that, Local Motors had launched the Strati roadster, an electric two-seater highlighting 75% 3D printed parts.

In addition, as connected vehicles increase in demand, the requirement for electronic devices, like sensors and antennae within the car, is growing too. With this expansion comes a higher need for designing and producing smaller, more complex electronics. Based on micro-and nano-scale 3D printing technologies, it is possible to develop more complicated electronic components that can be immediately embedded into the vehicle. In addition, electronic 3D printing can reduce the costs and development time for creating these devices.

As previously mentioned, customization offers many possibilities. For example, MINI customers can personalize their vehicles by creating the side inserts and the passenger-side sideband in the cockpit. Across its diverse projects, BMW Group has 3D printed higher than 140,000 parts. More globally, almost every player in the business is funding 3D printing technologies to create more complex, high-performance parts.

Conclusion

The events of additive manufacturing being used solely for fast prototypes are concluded. The automotive industry is a beautiful example of what can be achieved with technology at all stages of the production process. However, automotive companies must allow the rigid reality of “transform or die.” If they desire to sustain and succeed in this changing environment, they must encompass additive manufacturing and commence investigating its potential as quickly as possible. Otherwise, the possibility of a future where they no longer survive is very distinguished.