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Engineering Materials

Daimler Funds 3D Printer for Auto Production

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Elizabeth M
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Interesting development
Elizabeth M   1/4/2013 6:30:14 AM
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This is an exciting development in the world of 3D printing for sure and will certainly cut costs and provide more productivity for auto makers as it moves into the mainstream. As this is the work of European researchers, do you think the U.S. would embrace this sort of thing, too?

ervin0072002
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Re: Interesting development
ervin0072002   1/4/2013 9:44:20 AM
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I promise you that if 3D printers cost sub 200usd I would buy one and so would any one that can use the software. I just wish the price would get to that point faster. The manufacturers of these printers need to realize that selling the cartridges and printing materials will make them more money than the printers themselves. Sell the devices at cost and wait for the returns on the materials.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Interesting development
Ann R. Thryft   1/4/2013 2:53:35 PM
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ervin0072002, I agree on that business model, at least for the low-end machines. But it will take time before volumes are high enough for that model to work. Meanwhile, the high-end machines, such as the one in this article, are an entirely different animal: they're more like a capital equipment purchase.

Charles Murray
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Re: Interesting development
Charles Murray   1/4/2013 5:51:04 PM
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I'm amazed by this. Automakers have always used high-volume production techniques for a good reason -- the auto industry is all about high volume. That's why engineers have always been willing to put up with the two- or four- or six-week timeframe that's required to build tooling. When the tooling is completed, they can build 400 or 500 parts an hour. Thousands of parts a day. I wonder what kind of parts Daimler plans to build with this technology?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Interesting development
Ann R. Thryft   1/7/2013 11:53:25 AM
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Chuck, Daimler's original intent was to replace die-casting and sand-casting of big metal components and prototypes. Apparently, the consistency of material properties between parts made with casting methods wasn't high enough. Neither is the part size: Daimler also wants to increase it, while maintaining light weight, by using this printer. That second reason is a pretty classic one in 3D printing of functional production parts.

CLMcDade
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Re: Interesting development
CLMcDade   1/7/2013 2:29:33 PM
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Charles' observation was the first thing that came to mind when I read this article's headline.  However, even in mass production, the casting process is quite involved, requiring multiple steps.  While the lost-foam casting has reduced the time considerably, the foam patterns themselves must be manufactured first, and then the sand poured around them to create the casting mold.  When all the steps are added up, I wonder what the total time to cast a part is versus using rapid prototyping.

Another side benefit may be an environmental one - the sand used in metal casting usually absorbs toxic residue and must be treated before being disposed of.  I do not know what is involved in this step, but do know that here in the North and South Carolina area, a company had to pay upwards of a half a billion dollars to clean up the waste sand that it unknowingly donated for projects around this region.

Cabe Atwell
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Re: Interesting development
Cabe Atwell   1/7/2013 5:37:59 PM
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I am sure this is not priced for the hobbyist market. If one of these 1000R could be set up to print constantly for smaller projects, the individuals out there who need something made, could it be cost effective? Or is it just for printing high markup items, price intangibles.

Once litigation is over, Formlab's 20 micron printer may give this a run for its money, literally.

C

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Interesting development
Ann R. Thryft   1/7/2013 6:20:18 PM
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Cabe, thanks for the input. This is definitely a high-end machine, not a competitor with Formlabs. I doubt the 1000R would be useful or cost-efficient for renting out to multiple users: it's a capital equipment purchase. Generally, owners of, say, semi fab equipment systems don't rent those out, either, even if they could be kept constantly running, and even if they were experienced EMS houses like Flextronics. However, that might be possible after a few more generations of this 3D technology, and after the system itself had been redesigned to accommodate that targeted use.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Interesting development
Ann R. Thryft   1/9/2013 4:38:13 PM
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Clint, thanks for that feedback about casting. It's especially interesting to learn that the sand absorbs toxic residues and becomes a disposal problem. Ouch!

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Interesting development
Ann R. Thryft   1/4/2013 12:55:48 PM
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Elizabeth, there are several efforts afoot in the US to use 3D printers in high-volume mainstream car manufacturing. Stay tuned!

Elizabeth M
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Re: Interesting development
Elizabeth M   1/14/2013 3:18:38 AM
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Really, Ann? That's incredible...but I guess I should't be so surprised...there is a lot of investment in this technology these days. We've certainly come a long way form the days of the dot matrix!! (Sadly, I am old enough to remember!)

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Interesting development
Ann R. Thryft   1/15/2013 12:18:12 PM
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Elizabeth, I think one of the things that makes it hard to wrap one's head around what this technology does, and can do, is calling it "printing." That label was applied for perfectly good reasons--the use of inkjet technology for laying down the layers--but it's also become confusing to many. OTOH, when I saw the first 3D models being made back in the late 80s, it was like looking at sci-fi ideas come alive. And that sense of wonder remains.

Jack Rupert, PE
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Re: Interesting development
Jack Rupert, PE   1/12/2013 2:55:43 PM
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Just read anuother article someplace else that alluded to the use of 3D printers for autos.  In that case, they were using them to make one-off parts for classic cars where you could no longer obtain the original.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Interesting development
Ann R. Thryft   1/14/2013 4:36:32 PM
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Jack, the main use for 3D technology in auto production began with making one-off parts for high-end racing and/or classic cars. That's where this technology has been proven out for automotive uses. The main issues now are figuring out how to make machines that can participate in the high-speed, high-volume production environment of mainstream car manufacturing. The links at the end of this article will tell you more.

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