Nowadays, 3D-printing technology has drastically changed our industry to design, develop, and manufacture new things. In the automotive industry, 3D-printing technology has created phenomena that carry new shine, allowing for lighter and more complex structures in a fast time. For example, the first 3D-printed electric car was printed by Local Motors in 2014. Local Motors has also expanded the wide range of applications of 3D-printing technology to the maker of a 3D-printed bus called OLLI. OLLI is a driverless, electronic, recyclable, and extremely smart 3D-printed vehicle. In addition, Ford is a leader in the use of 3D-printing technology and also applies 3D-printing technology to the production of prototypes and engine parts. In addition, BMW uses 3D-printing technology to develop hand tools for vehicle research and assembly. Meanwhile, in 2017, Audi cooperated with SLM Solution Group AG in the development of spare parts and prototypes. As a result, the use of 3D-printing technology in the automotive industry enables the company to try out different alternatives and to emphasize right at the stage of improvement, creating an ideal and efficient automotive design. At the same time, 3D-printing technology can reduce material waste and consumption. In addition, 3D-printing technology can reduce costs and time, making it possible to test new designs in a very fast time.
The automotive industry is a growing user of additive manufacturing: In 2018 alone, the automotive 3D-printing market was estimated to be worth $1.4 billion. This figure is only set to increase, as the market is projected to reach $5 billion by 2023, according to one study. Across fields such as motorsports and performance racing, techniques such as generative design and topology optimization are slowly changing traditional approaches to parts design. While prototyping continues to be the main application of 3D printing in the automotive industry, companies are increasingly finding other applications, such as tooling. In addition, many automotive companies are beginning to find creative end-use applications for 3D printing, which represent an exciting trend for the industry (Figure 7.2).
FIGURE 7.2 3D-printed automotive engine parts.
The Benefits of 3D Printing for Automotive
Faster Product Development
Prototyping has become a vital part of the product development process, providing a way to check and verify the parts before they are made. 3D printing provides a simple and cost-effective approach to the design and manufacture of components. When the need for tools is reduced, product teams will greatly shorten product development cycles.
Greater Design Flexibility
The ability to produce designs quickly gives designers more flexibility when testing multiple design options. 3D printing allows designers to make quick design changes and modifications within a fraction of the time.
3D printing offers a cost-effective and flexible way for automakers to produce customized parts. In the luxury and motorsport segment of the market, businesses are now using the technology to manufacture custom parts for both the interior and exterior parts of a car.
Create Complex Geometries
With the majority of car components requiring complex geometries such as internal channels (for conformal cooling), thin walls, and fine mesh, AM makes it possible to produce highly complex parts that are still lightweight and durable.