Editorial Feature

Hybrid 3D Printing in the Automotive Industry

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3D printing has been increasingly influencing many industries in recent times. However, the largest impact has been in the automotive industry due to the wide range of applications that it holds. While 3D printed cars are few and far between, many of the largest automotive companies have been using the technology to print components and save time and money.

It is known that 3D printing has many benefits, including a large reduction in weight of the components compared to traditionally manufactured cars. Companies can implement lattices in their design to make cars lighter and therefore more fuel efficient. 3D printing can also reduce material waste which is also more environmentally friendly and financially efficient. In addition to this, the increasing availability of affordable 3D printers means that it is now possible to create custom designed cars with specialized components. One of the most exciting benefits of 3D printing car components is the significant savings that can be made. A good example of this is Volkswagen Autoeuropa. Last year, the company saved just shy of $290,000 after implementing the technology into their assembly line.

A car contains approximately 30,000 different parts which all serve different functions. It is easy to see the benefit of 3D printing which can easily print small components without the need of time-consuming and laborious manufacturing methods.

Other components of a car, such as an exhaust manifold, need to be specifically designed to meet certain requirements. The manifold must be able to withstand high temperatures and be robust in order to withstand the environment surrounding a car engine. Usually, this type of component would be created using metal casting and would not be able to be made by 3D printing alone. Therefore, companies have started prototyping a hybrid system, to ensure the best product for the customer, whilst also being cost and time efficient.

A Hybrid manufacturing system is the combination of new 3D printing technology and conventional manufacturing techniques such as plating or milling. This type of process is seen as a good way of reducing time and cost to make a product while also addressing quality concerns. The hybrid process also allows an increased amount of finishes available to the user and is thought to be a good balance between style and substance.

One of the companies currently working on this issue to BigRep in partnership with Polymertal. The two companies have used the 3D printing machine, BigRep STUDIO to print the part using PLA and PRO HT filament. The exhaust manifold was then coated in 20-micron-thick nickel via a direct metallization plating process. The process took 15 hours to complete but the material cost was less than $25 and the part was proved to be heat and chemical resistant. It also performed similarly to the traditional component while decreasing the weight of the product. The two companies are experimenting with different car components and hope that their new method of manufacturing will be able to save faster and cheaper production of automobiles.

Further Reading

  1. Giffi, G. (n.d.). 3D opportunity in the automotive industry. Retrieved from deloitte.com: https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/insights/us/articles/additive-manufacturing-3d-opportunity-in-automotive/DUP_707-3D-Opportunity-Auto-Industry_MASTER.pdf
  2. Scott, C. (2017, January 10). Blade and Dagger: Divergent 3D Makes Saving the Planet Look Sexy with 3D Printed Vehicles at CES 2017. Retrieved from 3DPrint.com: https://3dprint.com/161264/divergent-3d-blade-dagger-ces/
  3. Scott, C. (2018, March 24). BigRep and Polymertal Take 3D Printing Hybrid Approach to Automotive Prototyping. Retrieved from 3DPrint.com: https://3dprint.com/207572/bigrep-polymertal-prototyping/
  4. Zeijderveld, J. V. (2018, March 16). Valuable For The Automotive Industry: 3D Printed Car Parts. Retrieved from Sculpteo.com: https://www.sculpteo.com/blog/2018/05/16/valuable-for-the-automotive-industry-3d-printed-car-parts/

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