Automobile industry has been an early industrial adopter of 3D printing. Over the span of a decade, the Automobile industry has witnessed 3D printing technology transform from a useful alternative to an indispensable tool. Initially, focused on making prototypes, 3D printing now is responsible for creating complex parts, speeding up tooling cycles, enhancing measurement & testing, while also providing customized solutions.
Miniature 3D printed designs of cars are easy to test. With advances in 3D printing & compatible materials, designers can test various forms & practical functions. This helps in finalizing optimum design ideas faster, as life size designs of parts & models can be printed immediately upon approval.
Rapid tooling is growing at an enormous pace within the industry. 3D printing is responsible for shrinking the tooling process & making it easier to develop task specific tools. Designing custom tools & 3D printing them saves time, material cost & machine time, making it profitable for automakers in every way.
Customization for select vehicle models can be an expensive affair for automakers. From the interior of a car to the essential functional parts, customizing & mass-producing custom parts in low volume proves costly. Using 3D printing, customized parts can be easily produced, while lowering cost of customization to OEMs & the end user alike. This is especially true for EMVs, which require lightweight & specially designed parts to be produced in low quantity.
Measuring & validating accuracy of parts & fixtures, on demand, is now possible thanks to 3D printing. Using FDM technology, designers can print special tools that last longer & are lighter as well as mobile. This makes it easy to carry them to any point in the assembly line. Using rubber like materials also helps avoid scratches & other type of damage on end parts, making measurement & validation cheaper, faster & more efficient.
Using FDM, SLS or SLM technologies for 3D printing, automakers can test various iterations of a model rapidly. This also extends to the ability of being able to use multiple materials in making one model & testing the outcome right away. This helps validate complex part designs & make designers aware of parts that may not be functional in the real world as well.
With 3D printing making it easier to design new models, make complex parts with ease, the automobile industry is on its way to a complete revolution. Shorter lead times in design, fabrication, testing & validation are helping the industry cater to the varied consumer & environment needs with ease.