This article appeared in www.sculpteo.com on May 16, 2018
Did you know that a regular car contains over 30,000 different components and parts, all made of different shapes and materials – produced with different manufacturing methods? What parts out of those 30,000 could be produced with 3D printing? We have already informed you on how 3D printing affects the future of the automotive industry but in this blog post, we will give you all the answers on how you can use 3D printing right now. First, we will explain a bit more about cars and why they are made in a way we are currently familiar with. Then, we will explain to you what the benefits of 3D printing car parts and car frames are and what parts can be 3D printed. You will then find some examples of 3D printed car parts produced by large automotive companies. Last but not least, we will explain to you how Sculpteo can be of service for the automotive industry and for your car part projects.
A typical car layout
The production of a typical car is influenced by the following factors: durability, cost, and repairability – and it needs to atone to safety regulations. When looking at a day to day modern car, we can see that it is overall made out of the following parts.
- The unibody: or ‘’the underlying frame/spine’’ is nearly always produced from a mix of steel and a special high-strength steel.
- Body panels: These panels are made of steel and have a plastic front/bumper.
- The hood: The hood of some cars may have an aluminum hood and rear deck lid making it weigh less.
- The Interior: a car’s dashboard, gauges, dials, switches, air conditioner vents, door handles, floor mats, seat belts, airbags and similar are nearly always made from different types of plastics.
- Fuel tank
- Energy management & control systems
- Thermal management system
- Energy storage unit (for hybrid cars)
Benefits of 3D printing car parts
Listed down below, you will find what the major benefits are when car parts are produced with 3D printers. The overall benefits include a reduction in weight, a reduction in material loss, being able to create customized 3D printed car parts, easy replacement of spare parts, a great ROI and saving time in production in general.
Reduction in weight
3D printing allows for parts to weigh less compared to when it is made with a traditional manufacturing process. If a car weighs less, it consumes less fuel, making it more environmentally and cost friendly. One major car company, Volkswagen, already received the memo and has totally redesigned and reinforced their A-pillar window support. Now, it weighs 74% less than compared to the original part. With the help of implementing lattices in the 3D file, lighter structures can be made. Click here to learn more about lattices.
Reduction in material loss
3D printing only uses the amount of material that is needed to build your car’s component without leaving excess material that goes to waste. The excess material is always used for a different project. With subtractive manufacturing, you lose material, making it a less sustainable and costly manufacturing method.
Create customized car parts
Car enthusiasts wish to create a unique car and with 3D printing, unique additional design features can be implemented. In the examples of 3D printed car parts found below, you can find a real-life 3D printed mass customization project for car parts by BMW.
Easy replacement of spare parts
Some car parts need to be manufactured in a way that would make it easy to manufacture it again for when parts get damaged by e.g. bumps. Otherwise, it can prove to be difficult to find replacements, especially for older car models. But, by combining 3D scanning, 3D modeling and additive manufacturing it’s possible to produce rare (spare) parts for cars.
Savings in costs
In order to give you an idea on how beneficial 3D printing car parts can be related to the costs, we will show you an example. When looking at Volkswagen Autoeuropa’s assembly line process that has implemented 3D printing, we can see the following savings in costs for them:
- €150,000 saved in costs for 2016
- 100% return on investment (ROI) was accomplished within two months of implementing 3D printing
- €250,000 expected savings in costs for 2017
What parts can be produced with 3D printing?
The following aspects of a car can be 3D printed:
The unibody is practically the spine of a car. This spine absorbs any push and bumps the car experiences. When producing a unibody, the post-crash repair aspect needs to be taken into consideration as an important factor. The complex manufacturing methods that the unibody is produced with, are extremely hard to replicate in a local car repair shop. Thus, additive manufacturing is an ideal production method due to its accessibility and its ability in general to replace damaged parts.
The most important factors to take into consideration when producing the body panels of a car is to think of costs, weight, reparation, and easiness of the manufacturing type. The body panels are the most vulnerable to any bumps and scratches. Thus, it needs to be made out of a material that is easy to manufacture to get the bumps out. In most cases, this would be steel for it is able to handle things like speed bumps very well. Body panels are prone to damage, thus additive manufacturing is a great 3D printing solution for quick replacement and also for its ability to metal print these panels.
The dashboard, gauges, dials, switches, air conditioner vents, door handles, floor mats, seat belts, airbags and similar are nearly always made from different types of plastics. Plastics are used due to their lightweight nature. Additive manufacturing makes use of many types of durable plastics and even allows customization options with its easily adjustable 3D printing technology.
Examples of 3D printed car parts
Below you may find some examples of 3D printed car parts produced by large car manufacturers.
The Porsche Classic division, a division that is dedicated to Porsche’s classic vehicles, is using 3D printing for the production of spare parts for their rare vehicles. Due to being rare vehicles, their original parts aren’t always being produced or found anymore. In order to have fitting and accurate working components, they are 3D printed. The Porsche Classic division had looked at different manufacturing processes but came to the conclusion that 3D printing is an ideal economic alternative for the small batch production of unavailable parts, like the clutch release lever on the rare Porsche 959. This division uses SLM 3D printing technology for steel, light metal, and plastic components to create specific 3D parts.
Rolls-Royce is working on new prototypes for their luxury cars using 3D printing to allow drivers to completely personalize their car. The Rolls-Royce 103EX has a futuristic design that will allow for the inside and outside to be customized by the driver. The reason behind using 3D printing for personalization options is due to the company being then able to handle the complexity of the personalization demands for a custom car in combination with the complexity of the production process of their luxury cars.
Mass customization in combination with 3D printing can also be applied to car parts. For BMW’s MINI series, the MINI Yours Customized service was created for BMW MINI users. This service has taken up the form of an online shop where clients can indicate the customized changes in 3D design they would like to have implemented for specific parts of the BMW MINI e.g. the door handle or parts of the side plate that are 3D printable.
Company Daimler Buses is a company that applies 3D printing for replacing parts for buses and coaches of the Mercedes-Benz and Setra brands. 3D printing allows for them to quickly produce a customers’ individual wishes, small series production and replacement parts. According to Hartmut Schick, Head of Daimler Buses he find that “In the medium term, we see digital production technologies as harbouring vast potential to enable us to address market and customer requirements in a flexible manner while at the same time minimising investment risks,”.
3D printing car parts at Sculpteo
The methods used to produce a car will continue to change over the next years as the automobiles being manufactured change as well. Currently, vehicles that feature electric battery systems to improve fuel efficiency by reducing reliance upon gasoline engines are being produced more and more. 3D printers and other manufacturing processes have to change to accommodate the latest technologies. Sculpteo is prepared to take on the task of providing new manufacturing methods. With overall benefits that include a reduction in weight, a reduction in material loss, being able to create customized 3D printed car parts, easy replacement of spare parts and a great ROI, it is logical to use 3D printing for car parts. Do you need know about some software that is ideal for car design? Find some examples here. As for the materials we have, we offer many durable materials, steel and metal printing and a production form that is not wasteful. Click here to upload a 3D model of your car part and receive it in the best form of quality that you can ask for.
This article appeared originally at: https://www.sculpteo.com/blog/2018/05/16/valuable-for-the-automotive-industry-3d-printed-car-parts/