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Applications of 3D printing technology in automotive industry

Date:2014-11-24   Reading:5669

3D printing technology (RAPID PROTOTYPING technology) is also called additive manufacturing (abbreviation word is AM); it is a high and new manufacture technology that developed in end of 1980s and early 1990s, has the same significance with CNC technology.  It is a new prototyping technology that based on discretion and deposition modeling principle. It could collect 3D data of part model or object model by taking industry design or 3D digital technology (for example, 3D scanning and 3 coordinates measurement technology) , and then manufacture the real part or object models rapidly and accurately by using 3D printing technology with a way of materials accumulations , even , it could manufacture real parts or molds directly .

3D printing technology has following kinds: stereo-lithography (SLA), selective laser sintering and fused deposition modeling (FDM), etc. The advantages of 3D printing technology are as follows: development cost of new product could be reduced, development period could be shorter, complex structure product could be made and integration of design and manufacture could be realized, all these advantages are taken by different industry and widely applied, especially in the automotive industry , due to the application of this new technology , the development speed of new type autos is increased many times compared with the speed before , however , the development cost is only a fraction of the cost before. Thus, almost all the vehicle factories are using rapid prototyping equipment in different design stage, such as General Motor, Ford motor, Porsche, Honda, Toyota, Kreisler ,Mercedes- Benz, Audi , FAW-Volkswagen and BMW.

The business application share of 3D printing technology in auto industry is 20.6% (cited in Wohlers Associates, 2010). At present, the mainly application of 3D printing technology is to use large size 3D printer for making prototype and model for product development, and as a tool for design verification and assessment. Auto design rely on the feedback much from customer in domestic market, for example, after the market information are collected from customer , engineer and designer would make concept design and prototype development , and then the product prototype will be sent to hand model manufacturer for 3D printing and CNC machining by design department of auto company ( auto research & development institute ). The finished hand model would be used for design verification and assessment, rapid modeling and small batch production.

Auto Engine

The inner side of auto engine intake pipe is composed with complex curved surface, which is very important for improving intake efficiency and burning fuel. During design process of engine intake pipe, it is necessary to make engine inlet port test for different intake pipe solution, the traditional method is to make dozens of cross sections as wooden mold of intake pipe or plaster mold of intake pipe by hand, and then cast a intake pipe by sand mold, however, due to the ability to understand drawing and skill level of wooden mold worker, it could cause deviation compared with the original design idea and drawing after the model is made , the deviation is very obviously sometimes. If use CNC technology to make model, it could better reflect design idea, but it take long time to prepare, especially for complex structure product. The Rover Company from British manufactured the external model and inner side model of engine intake pipe by taking SLS technology, and has satisfactory effect in practice.

SLS prototype of auto engine intake pipe

auto lamps

Because the shape of most auto lamps is irregular and surface is complex, it is difficult to make the mold. With SLA technology, it could make product sample accurately and rapidly, which provides a good reference for CAD mold design and CAM mold the same time, with SLA technology, it could also produce lamps molds rapidly and accurately through investment casting process by integrate with vacuum injection method.

SLA prototype of auto lamps

As the price of 3D printer goes down and the industry chain is mature (designer, manufacturer, supplier and integrator and customer) , 3D printing technology would change the market rule in auto market.

Innovation of auto design

As the 3D printer technology is mater and widely applied, the auto customer could print out new product model of new design at any time and in any place, so it could provide new idea and new design materials source for design department of auto manufacturers, moreover, the new product designed by Crowd souring could be rich in form and dynamic

customized parts

The customer could choose combined auto parts as they like from the specific market, mobile phone and network, such as auto pumpers, rear-view mirrors, headlamps, instrument board, steering wheel and other inner and outer side decorative parts. After the design demands from customer are confirmed by auto dealer, the 3D printing service dealer could make these combined auto parts and then the customer could get the customized autos.

spare parts and service

The auto 4S stores or the owners of auto could print auto parts and maintenance tools by using 3d printer, especially; the 3D scanner is used to scan prototype, and then modeling by using reverse design software, finally, the copy of tools could be printed by 3D printer.

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