3D printing is changing the automotive industry. This is because manufacturing plastics, metals, and even ceramics has become much easier, thanks to 3D printers becoming more affordable. It’s important to understand why automakers are adopting this technology and how it is being implemented in the production process. Not only that, but it is also important to know what challenges automakers are currently facing while also keeping an eye on how 3D printing could change the automotive industry in years to come. In this article, we will examine how 3D printing can bring a positive impact on the automotive industry.
1. Reconceptualizing the Prototyping Process
Prototyping has traditionally been the most common use for 3D printing in the automotive industry. Because of the speed at which 3D printing can produce prototypes, it has become synonymous with rapid prototyping.3D printing has revolutionized product development in a way that allows companies to make prototypes with enough resources.
For example, some companies send their products to another country for prototype manufacturing. They had to send the product over with all their specs and directions and wait for them to be constructed. Once completed, they would have to pay extremely large amounts of money in ocean freighting, costing them thousands of dollars in expenses.
Most, if not all, industries have faced similar obstacles. Prototyping is an important part of the manufacturing process in the automotive sector. 3D printing allows for rapid prototyping during this phase — before a product goes into full-scale production.
2. Designing and Fabricating Parts for Precision Applications
3D printed scale models are popular in automotive design because they offer a high-quality, accurate depiction of designing and fabricating parts for specific vehicles. With 3D printing, automotive designers can quickly fabricate a design of a mechanical component using computer-guided machines. This enables companies to turn ideas into convincing proofs of concepts more easily. Mechanical prototypes developed using these concepts can then be used to validate the idea and advance it toward production a lot more quickly.
3. Creating Machine Tools and Manufacturing Aids
Engineers employ 3D-printed manufacturing aids to simplify and streamline assembly processes, reduce cycle times, and improve worker safety — all of which translates into higher productivity. Automotive factories and part suppliers use thousands of custom jigs and fixtures, each tailored to their specific needs. This results in a proliferation of tools, which adds cost complexity to the manufacturing process.
4. Dealing with Part Shortages
The uncertain demand for spare parts has historically posed challenges for the automotive industry. When spare parts are not available, the value of products declines, and repairs become difficult. Additionally, there is also the problem of storage of such parts, 3D printing has the potential to possibly eliminate spare and storage problems while producing spares on the go without having to order the spare parts overseas which would cost more than the original price.
5. Reducing the Difficulty of General Parts Manufacturing
As the cost of 3D printing technology becomes more affordable, we will see a progressive transition toward producing regular automotive parts. Because 3D printers can produce parts of uniform strength and structure, they are shaping up to be a viable alternative to traditional manufacturing methods in many areas.
With the increasing manufacturing and technological advancements, the automotive industry has many ways to proliferate and take on a new perspective in the upcoming years. As 3D printing grows into an effective technology, it’s important for car manufacturers to keep up with these innovations by using this tool during various stages of production. Printing car parts more precisely and efficiently will make automakers rethink the design process, resulting in higher-quality products. It’s safe to say that 3D printing will continue taking over the automotive industry for years.