Automakers have been finding ways to make cars lighter and more fuel efficient for decades. Shifting auto body materials from steel to fiberglass and aluminum helped, but so did the advent of functional plastic parts. Now, it’s possible to produce parts for cars using additive manufacturing techniques with metals and plastics. Learn how 3D printing is used in the automotive industry.
One of the original uses of 3D printing in the automotive industry was prototyping. Creating futuristic, sleek, and aerodynamic designs became faster, easier, less wasteful, and less expensive when industry experts switched to 3D technology.
Innovative designs often depart from standardization. This isn’t a problem when you can print custom parts for new vehicles. From racing cars to electric vehicles, 3D printing allows manufacturers to cost-effectively produce low quantities of functional parts that are unique to their vehicle design.
Carmakers have used 3D printing to revive and revitalize vintage auto designs, too. When parts for a classic car are no longer available, manufacturers can reverse-engineer the needed part using laser scanning and computer technology and 3D print a functional part to replace those no longer available.
Volkswagen even recreated a version of its classic microbus using 3D printed parts, including wheels and hubcaps. Bentley used 3D printing to create metal door handles, vents, and grilles that are more intricate than those they had used previously.
The computerized processes of 3D printing make personalization possible. Auto manufacturers can offer buyers the opportunity to vary design elements both the interior and exterior of the car. In fact, Porsche is now offering customized 3D printed bucket seats in several of its models.
Another innovative way 3D printing is used in the automotive industry is evident at Ford Motors, which uses 3D printing to make its own custom tools to help workers on the line perform their tasks more efficiently and with greater precision.
Manufacturers can select high-strength 3D printer filament and other advanced materials that feature excellent heat resistance and durability for use in both internal parts and external design elements. Materials suitable for printing car parts must be UV resistant and strong enough to hold up to the stresses cars endure, from heat and cold to the impacts of a bumpy road.
Finally, hobbyists have discovered 3D printing for customizing cars and adding a personal touch to their vehicle’s look. If you’re contemplating 3D printing a part or decorative modification for your vehicle, contact Fortis 3D to discuss the type of filament that might work for your application.