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Automotive

The growing user of additive manufacturing, the automotive industry has always been in need of more innovative, light-weighted, durable and high performance parts, something that the 3D printing technology can achieve. As an early adopter of additive manufacturing, mainly for rapid prototyping at the beginning, the automotive industry is widely exploring the possibilities of 3D printing for creating end-use applications indicating an exciting development for the industry.

According to the SmarTech report, by 2025 the revenue of AM in automotive part production is expected to grow to $5.8 billion. 

Greater design flexibility

One famous benefit of the AM technologies is that it allows designers and engineers greater flexibility, therefore they can test and make multiple versions of their design. Moreover, AM allows these variations  to be made faster and shorten the lead time significantly.

Benefits:

No tool costs
Shorter lead times
Design flexibility for different versions
Cost reduction
Exhaust manifold for Formula 1 engines made by Renishaw
Exhaust manifold for Formula 1 engines made by Renishaw

Recommended AM technologies:

SLM / DMLS (Metals)
SLM / DMLS
(Metals)
SLS (Engineering plastics)
SLS
(Engineering plastics)
WAAM (XL Metal)
WAAM
(XL Metal)
MJF (Engineering Plastics)
MJF
(Engineering Plastics)

Customization

Customization is one of the most obvious benefits for the automakers. Therefore, the automotive industry is already utilizing 3D printing technologies for its luxury and motorsport segments, but also for personalized parts with many unique options for the interior and exterior of the vehicles.

Benefits:

Unique, customizable solutions
High quality finish
High impact resistance, UV resistance
No tooling or mold needed
Customized parts in BMW's Mini series (Image credits: Press BMW group)
Customized parts in BMW’s Mini series
(Image credits: Press BMW group)
Customized seat for Porsche's sport car (Image credits: Press BMW group)
Customized seat for Porsche’s sport car
(Image credits: Press BMW group)

Recommended AM technologies:

DLS - CLIP (Carbon reinforced materials)
DLS – CLIP
(Carbon reinforced materials)
SLS (Engineering plastics)
SLS
(Engineering plastics)
LAM (Viscous materials Ex: silicone)
LAM
(Viscous materials Ex: silicone)
MJF (Engineering Plastics)
MJF
(Engineering Plastics)

Complex Geometries

Optimizing weight and integration of parts

Additive manufacturing technologies give a lot of freedom when it comes to the complexity of the part, and the level of complexity plays a minor role in the production cost. In the automotive industry there are many parts that contain internal channels (for conformal cooling) or have requirements to be lightweight, with fine meshes or durable. AM technologies enable these requirements to be easily fulfilled.

Benefits:

Great design freedom
Lightweight structures
Cost reduction
Multiple parts integration and assemblies
Rolls-Royce 3D printed brackets
Rolls-Royce 3D printed brackets

Recommended AM technologies:

SLM / DMLS (Metals)
SLM / DMLS
(Metals)
SLS (Engineering plastics)
SLS
(Engineering plastics)
MJF (Engineering Plastics)
MJF
(Engineering Plastics)
Binder jetting (Metal, sand casted parts)
Binder jetting
(Metal, sand casted parts)

Jigs, Fixtures and Tooling

Jigs, fixtures and tooling are used enormously in the automotive industry and to produce them the companies are (some of the were) using traditional manufacturing methods like casting, welding assembling or CNC machining. However, these processes require intensive planning, machining and skilled operators resulting in long lead times, high production costs and don’t offer great flexibility in new designs. 
3D printing being the ideal alternative, unsurprisingly can allow fast and easy alternation between design of parts and tools, fast lead times and lower production costs.

Benefits:

Production efficiency
Lower production costs and manufacturing time
More freedom in designs
Ford's 3D printed tools used in production line (Photo credit: Ultimaker)
Ford’s 3D printed tools used in production line
(Photo credit: Ultimaker)

Recommended AM technologies:

FDM (Plastics, engineering plastics)
FDM
(Plastics, engineering plastics)
DLP (Plastics)
DLP
(Plastics)
SLA (Plastics)
SLA
(Plastics)
SLS (Engineering plastics)
SLS
(Engineering plastics)
MJF (Engineering plastics)
MJF
(Engineering plastics)

Spare parts

Like for many other industries also in the automotive industry, one of the most obvious uses for additive manufacturing would be to produce parts that are no longer manufactured. This is usually a case for models of cars that are older or for more custom parts that are measured for specific cars or for cars with limited production.  
However the case is, 3D printing allows the convenient manufacturing process to be substituted as 3D printing is economical and perfectly suited for small batches.

Benefits:

Internal channels possible
Flow optimization
Functionality improvement
3D printed manifolds for the engineen of the 1970s Classic mini (Photo credit: DSM)
3D printed manifolds for the engineen of the 1970s Classic mini
(Photo credit: DSM)

Recommended AM technologies:

FDM (Plastics, engineering plastics)
FDM
(Plastics, engineering plastics)
SLS (Engineering plastics)
SLS
(Engineering plastics)
MJF (Engineering plastics)
MJF
(Engineering plastics)
SLM / DMLS (Metals)
SLM / DMLS
(Metals)

Interested in implementing 3D printing in your business?

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