The automotive industry has never been static. From the time Henry Ford introduced his horseless carriage in 1901, the only constant in the automotive industry has been that it’s always changing. We may not yet have flying cars, but we’ve fully embraced technology and automakers are boldly moving forward by implementing it into their designs.
3D Printing transforms the Automotive Industry
So far, 2017 has proven to be a year of boundless innovation for the automotive industry, with perhaps the standout hit being the increased production of 3D printed tooling and parts.
In fact, experts predict 3D technology will revolutionize the auto industry as we know it. Konrad Malik, founder of RapidMake 3D Printing, is banking on it. RapidMake 3D Printing produces 3D printers suitable for home use, but they also work with larger scale manufacturers.
“It’s a very exciting time to be in my business, and one of the things I’m most intrigued by is the opportunity to work with auto manufacturers. We’ve got the technology now to 3D print parts. That’s a game changer for the auto industry, for everyone from the manufacturers to the consumers,” Konrad Malik explains.
German automaker Mercedes-Benz was the first to 3D print metal parts in early August, as well as the first to integrate 3D printing into the process of auto production, and other automakers are likely to follow suit. Evidence of this can be found in SmarTech’s 10-year forecast, released in 2014, in which they projected top automotive manufacturers would increasingly utilize 3D technology to print tooling and other parts.
In addition to parts – metal and otherwise – 3D printing is being used to print auto tooling.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory group leader and corporate fellow Lonnie Love said in a July 31 presentation the results of early 3D printed tooling were “promising.” Engineers and scientists at Oak Ridge have successfully tooled car hoods. Their original goal, which they met, was to 3D print an entire vehicle, but they discovered in the process it was more cost effective and more profitable to 3D print tools.
Love is optimistic about the possibilities and called 3D printed tooling a “billion dollar industry.”
“It’s a win-win scenario,” Malik went on to explain about the result of increased 3D printing in the automotive industry. He added that automakers are able to reduce their production costs, and car buyers will see lower maintenance costs over the life of their vehicle.
If an automobile is constructed using 3D printed parts, what happens when those parts wear out or malfunction? Until now, one had to repair or replace them, which can be expensive and time consuming. Now, you can simply print a new part out.
Another advantage of implementing 3D technology into the automotive manufacturing process is it’s more environmentally friendly for a host of reasons. Less material is wasted and production can be done on a smaller scale. A study published in Energy Policy reported 3D printing results in less energy consumption and CO2 emissions. The technology produce more sustainable designs, and it also helps reduce transportation costs.
Traditional manufacturing products are frequently shipped in from all around the world, however, 3D printed products can be manufactured onsite, reducing their overall carbon footprint. 🙂