3D Printing – Driving the future of automotive production

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has made significant inroads into the automotive industry, transforming various aspects of design, prototyping, production, and even aftermarket services.

Producing its tooling internally reduces tool production costs for the car manufacturer by 90% — and cuts lead times from weeks to just a few days. To take one example, a tool like a liftgate badge would reportedly take 35 days to develop using traditional manufacturing and cost up to €400. With 3D printing, the same tool can be produced in four days at a cost of just €10. 

Volkswagen Autoeuropa: 3D-printed manufacturing tools

Here are some key ways in which 3D printing is impacting the automotive sector:

Prototyping and Design Iterations

1. Prototyping and Design Iterations

3D printing enables the quick and cost-effective production of prototype parts. This accelerates the design iteration process, allowing engineers and designers to test and refine concepts in a fraction of the time it would take with traditional manufacturing methods.

2. Customization and Personalization

The automotive industry is increasingly utilizing 3D printing to manufacture customized and personalized components, from interior features to exterior designs. This allows for greater flexibility in meeting consumer preferences and requirements.

Customization and Personalization
Lightweighting Car Parts With 3D Printing

3. Lightweighting Car Parts With 3D Printing

Utilizing 3D printing technology, the automotive sector pioneers a multi-material architecture that seamlessly integrates metal 3D printing through generative geometries and lightweight composite materials. This groundbreaking approach not only optimizes performance but also delivers a remarkable 40% reduction in weight compared to existing solutions in the market.

Lighter weight cars bring in more efficiency, irrespective of the engine type. This helps increase acceleration, handling and braking power. These factors push 3D printed cars to initially enter as better performance vehicles rather than the regular commuter vehicles.

4. Tooling and Manufacturing Aids

3D printing is used to produce tooling, jigs, and fixtures that aid in the manufacturing process. These custom tools enhance efficiency and precision on the assembly line, reducing production costs and lead times.

Tooling and Manufacturing Aids
Spare Parts and Aftermarket Solutions

5. Spare Parts and Aftermarket Solutions

Automotive manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers can use 3D printing to produce on-demand spare parts, reducing the need for extensive storage of replacement components. This is particularly beneficial for extending the lifespan of older vehicle models.

6. End-Use Aftermarket Parts With 3D Printing

3D printing proves to be a game-changer for bespoke components in small quantities, drastically reducing production lead times by months and significantly lowering overhead costs. By opting for 3D printing in the production of parts, you eliminate the need for Tooling Development in the product development cycle. This not only accelerates the iteration process but also shortens the time between finalizing the design and obtaining the actual production parts.

Additive manufacturing not only eliminates various constraints associated with traditional production methods but also enables the removal of design limitations, placing a greater emphasis on optimizing part functionality. This approach, free from traditional compromises, results in streamlined assemblies and enhanced part performance. Moreover, it achieves these improvements with reduced direct labor requirements, showcasing the efficiency and versatility of additive manufacturing processes

End-Use Aftermarket Parts With 3D Printing
Electric Vehicle (EV) Innovation

7. Electric Vehicle (EV) Innovation

The design and production of intricate components for electric vehicles, such as lightweight and efficient cooling systems for batteries, benefit significantly from the capabilities of 3D printing

Industrial 3D Printer for Automotive