3D Printing and Automotive Industry
The automotive industry has been very well-organised for several decades. Production is carried out on huge, mostly automated production lines. Today, the method used is still subtractive (mainly moulding). However, 3D printing is beginning to make its mark in this field, and for several reasons. In this article, we will discuss several aspects of this new industrial competition. Firstly, we will discuss the different applications of 3D printing and the materials used. Secondly, we will consider the question of the "ultimate project": printing an entire car in 3D. Finally, I will give you a summary of the different websites you can refer to according to your needs.
3D Printing Utility in Auto Industry
The first use of this technology is the prototyping, namely that new pieces are designed to be tested. Since 2020, Seat has a 3d printing lab. The lab is located in the SEAT Prototype Development Centre at their main plant in Martorell in Barcelona, Spain. This lab is composed of 9 different 3d printer, allowing them to try different methods of production. Normally, the production of a single prototype can last many days. Moreover, if the prototype needs to be changed or modified, the process have to be reiterated. This is due to the production method, which is not adapted. Now with the 3d printing, they only have to create the model of the part and to print it. So the part is ready from one day to the next.« This enables us to make several versions in the same week, which can be tested and modified again to improve them. »The LAB runs for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It produces 50 parts daily, using around 12 rolls of filament per month. Here is a second example of the benefits of 3d printing. Bugatti, a subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group, has announced that it has started to integrate 3D printing for the development of certain parts. The sports car Chiron is known for its high speed and powerful brakes. Bugatti therefore turned to additive manufacturing of titanium to lighten its brake calipers. By choosing titanium over aluminium, the weight of the part in question was reduced by 40 percent. Engineers claimed to have produced the largest brake caliper for a sports car, with eight titanium pistons in each front caliper and six in the rear. The manufacturer hopes to improve the performance of its vehicles in the future.
Next, we have the production, here is how 3d printing can be use for the construction of a car. Alfa Romeo Racing announced that their 2020 season sport car has 143 metal 3D printed parts, most of which are different types of Titanium and Aluminium. Printing all of those parts resulted in a 2% weight reduction, which is significant in F1, where every gram matters. It’s not a serial production, but it still shows how 3d printing can be useful in this business sector. Assemblies of 6 or 7 car parts can now be combined into one printed part. This saves time and assembly costs, even if each part is more expensive. By consolidating parts, 3D printing methods can also help reduce weight and therefore improve fuel efficiency. The variety of materials available for 3D printing is beginning to address the mechanical requirements of different vehicle components. As additive methods come to the same price as traditional methods (casting, die-casting, etc.), it will make more sense from a production and financial point of view to integrate 3D printing more into the general manufacture of parts.
Porsche has introduced a new concept for sports car seating that use 3D. The new seats can be customized by three firmness levels: hard, medium and soft. With its personalized seating, Porsche is taking cues from the motorsport sector, where customized driver-specific seat fitting is a norm. Porsche used 40 prototype seats for an European race in May 2020, with customer feedback being used to develop the final street-legal models for late-2021. Down the line, Porsche wants to expand seat customization beyond firmness and colour by personalizing the seat to the customer’s specific body contour. 3D printing currently remains the only technology that can enable this level of customization.
The last main utilization of 3d printing in the automotive sector is for the reparation. Now, industrial and individuals are able to print 3d car spare part for they own reparation. All we need is the 3d model. Even if it’s easier for the manufacturer, anyone with the basics of modelling is able to reproduce simple parts to repair their vehicle. Of course, we aren’t able to print the entire bodywork, we can easily print a hub wheel, or any other little part, what is hard, and expensive, to found on the internet. In addition, some companies have focused on this market. For example, GRYP, a French company, offers a wide range of spare parts for most car brands. They offer more than 700 references, and add new ones every week. Most of the time, these parts are no longer produced by the manufacturers, or they are extremely expensive on the second-hand market. This can therefore allow old vehicles to be refurbished at a lower cost. Of course, this market is relatively recent, so it will take a few more years before it becomes more widespread.
MaterialPrivate individuals and professionals do not use the same materials, mainly because some methods or materials require much greater resources.For private individuals, the materials used will be rather classic: PLA, PETG, ABS for most parts. For those requiring flexibility, TPU can be used. Resin printing should also not be forgotten. The relatively low cost of these materials allows for less expensive repairs.Professionals have much more powerful machines. They can withstand much higher temperatures, or print much more abrasive filaments.
Here is a brief presentation of the main materials used:
Polypropylene is a widely used material, it can be used to 3D print interior components, dashboard parts, airflow, or adapted fluid systems.
- Polyamide 6
Polyamide 6 is an advanced engineering polymer powder containing a flame-retardant (FR) additive. This material combines excellent mechanical and thermal performance. It is highly resistant and perfect to create functional parts for engine bay parts and many other parts in the transportation sector. PA6 is strong enough to hold the whole engine assembly and handle all heat, vibration, and static loads.
As seen before, TPU is ideal for applications requiring shock absorption, friction, or flexibility!
Full 3D Printed Car ?
Print an entire car is not a dream anymore. For example, the company « Local Motors » has designed in 2016 a little low speed shuttle. The shuttle named « Strati » has been designed primarily for use in urban centres in cities, business, university campuses and hospitals. Local Motors has tested over 2,000 combinations of printing material and fortifying additives, and is now able to print the entire minibus in roughly 10 hours. It represents a huge improvement compared to usual method. A major difficulty is the cost of 3d printing. Indeed, it’s not always the cheapest production technique for a very large series of large parts. That issue is especially problematic for metal 3D printed parts, broadly used in the automotive field. But the ongoing decrease of 3D printing costs for all technologies is changing the current dynamics. As a result, we might have to wait for a few decades for this technology to become a regular way to produce complete cars and to see the world’s first 3D printed car to be sold. But to manufacture spare parts, 3D printing is already an impressive ally, creating bright possibilities, either in terms of design optimization, of lightweighting, of sustainability, and creativity.
Website to Download 3D Car Part Models
Here are some website where you can found 3d car part for your own project.
Writter : Alexis PREVOTEAU for Anet