From Volkswagen to Porsche, this innovative process is finding a home in your garage.
3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, has been growing in the automotive industry over the years. While some companies work on integrating every benefit of 3D printing into a completely new design, other companies are looking for the low-hanging fruit to dip their toe in as they target specific parts that can be printed within the current vehicle designs. This article will review how 3D printing has been affecting the automotive market, and what some companies are doing to capture its benefits.
While this sounds like everyone is already using 3D printing for prototyping, the hype doesn’t necessarily match real life. From an interview in 2016, Scott Dunham, vice president of research for SmarTech Publishing, had this to say: “For example, the vast majority of the current deployments in the industry are around rapid prototyping for automobile design to cut down lead times on designing new models or revisions. Although with only around 15% to 20% penetration currently, we estimate a lot of room to grow in rapid prototyping.”
The promise of 3D printing has been in the background of manufacturing conversations for years. This technology’s potential to let companies create items on demand, with minimal factory equipment and an extreme degree of customization, has kept it relevant as the necessary hardware and software have improved. The fact that there hasn’t yet been a massive supply chain disruption due to 3D printing may be leading some companies to write it off. Leaders should keep their eyes open, however – further development could change the geography of manufacturing.
The use of 3D printing as a prototyping system, a behind-the-scenes option for product development, has kept it in the manufacturing ecosystem. Learning to produce finished goods with the same speed and ease currently used for in-development items could be the turning point for 3D printing’s impact and ubiquity.
Examining the marketplace
Current supply chain practices such as producing a high volume of goods in financially efficient factories and shipping them en masse may become less useful in the era of widespread 3D printing. The Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply recently examined both the transformative potential of 3D printing and the reasons why the technology hasn’t yet had such an impact, despite being known and available for years.
A 3D printer has been adapted by a team at the US Department of Energy’s Berkeley Lab to print 3D structures composed entirely of liquids.
The modified printer injects threads of water into silicone oil – sculpting tubes made of one liquid within another liquid.
The printer could be used to construct liquid electronics that power flexible, stretchable devices, the researchers said.
The scientists also foresee chemically tuning the tubes and flowing molecules through them, leading to new ways to separate molecules or precisely deliver nanoscale building blocks to under-construction compounds.
In October of 2017, the first 3D printed bridge bore a group of hard-hat-wearing city officials on bicycles as they wobbled across a canal in the city of Gemert in the Netherlands.
Officials and locals celebrated the opening of the 26-foot (8 meters) bridge that connects two roads over a small water-filled canal, said Phys.org. This structure represents a milestone for 3D printing of large-scale objects.
Printing the bridge’s 800 layers took about three months. The designers say the reinforced, pre-stressed concrete can handle loads equivalent to the weight of 40 trucks. In Amsterdam, Dutch startup MX3D is printing components for a stainless steel bridge to span a canal, according to Phys.org.
3D printing and injection molding each have their own benefits and limitations when it comes to making medical device parts, according to experts from PTI Engineered Plastics, Carbonand Protolabs.
Medical device parts makers are increasingly turning to 3D printing, but additive manufacturing has yet to reach the tipping point where it could supplant injection molding in medtech parts manufacturing, according to a March 8 experts panel at the AD&M Cleveland show in March.
In a new case study, global 3D printing leader Stratasys, which will soon introduce its new metal 3D printer, has explained how a top French pharmaceutical company was able to achieve a full return on investment (ROI) within just one year of purchasing and installing one of its production FDM 3D printers.
Bristol-Myers Squibb subsidiary UPSA determined that additive manufacturing would be a good way to attract new technicians, along with putting some life back into its in-house workshop. The company also realized that 3D printing would be able to help it find innovative solutions to production-line challenges, which were limiting the amount of machine parts it could make with traditional methods of manufacturing.
Low-cost lenses can now be 3D printed and used for a number of purposes including customised contact lenses for correcting distorted vision or turning iPhones into microscopes for disease diagnosis.
Developed by a team at Northwestern University, the customised optical component is 5mm in height and 5mm in diameter and can be 3D printed in about four hours.
“Up until now, we relied heavily on the time-consuming and costly process of polishing lenses,” said Cheng Sun, who worked on the project. “With 3D printing, now you have the freedom to design and customise a lens quickly.”
The customised lens was attached to an iPhone 6s and was able to take high-quality detailed images of a sunset, a moth’s wing and a spot on a weevil’s elyta.
Volvo CE says that it will utilise 3D parts printing technology to supply customers. The firm says that this will allow it to supply quality components quickly and at lower cost to customers. By using 3D parts printing the firm also says it will be able to carry out prototype testing of components more speedily than in the past.
“We are supporting customers through the life cycle of their equipment,” said Jasenko Lagumdzija, anager of Business Support at Volvo CE. “It’s especially good for older machines where the parts that have worn out are no longer made efficiently in traditional production methods. Producing new parts by 3D printing cuts down on time and costs, so it’s an efficient way of helping customers.”
Low-cost, 3D-printed robotic prosthetics have been developed by students at the University of Manchester that could provide a much cheaper alternative for amputees.
The hand’s joints are all fully posable with each individual finger and the thumb being able to move as well as make a fist.
The functionality of the hand allows its user to do simple everyday tasks such as picking up items, eating using a knife and fork, typing and clicking a mouse or opening doors. It can even play rock-paper-scissors.
The students built the hand for just £307 and reckon they can make it even cheaper. In comparison, an advanced robotic prosthetic limb currently on the market can start at approximately £25,000, going up to £60,000 if bought privately.
How one process may single-handedly solve some of society’s greatest problems.
What are some of the world’s biggest problems? Education, healthcare, natural disasters…the list goes on. One thing they all have in common is that many researchers, companies, non-profits, and everyday people are helping to solve them with 3D printing. Let’s walk through some of the ways this innovative process is saving the world.
More and more people seem to be asking about what’s happening to jobs and industry in the United States. As of January 2015, the U.S. as a nation ranked 27th in math and 20th in science, according to a Pew Research Center study on education. How are we going to stay on the cutting edge while our education is not keeping up with the rest of the world? In order to fix a problem, we must first admit we have one. Second, we must ask, what are we going to do about it?