It's especially interesting that this use of 3D printing for end-use components is happening in an automotive app. I think there's huge potential for 3D printing of end-use components in commercial car manufacturing. Also, the decision to design the car as a single unit might help current automakers figure out how to use multiple lightweighting materials in a single model.
Absolutely, Ann. No doubt that a widening number of materials choices and improvements in strength, durability, and flexibility have fueled the use of 3D printing for a wide array of prototyping and small production runs.
Back in 2002 when I worked at Chrysler Research Facility in Windsor, we parametrized an Edlebrock intake for a Dodge V8. We were able to make adjusts to the runners and deck height based on engine dyno and engine flow machine data to develop intakes for both long and short tracks for the NASCAR series. We then printed these intakes out on our 3D printer in a thermally resistant epoxy and then sent this out to a machine shop to be drilled and tapped for sensors. We then installed this assembly on an actual block in a NASCAR car and were able to obtain real-time data from the sensors on a 10 lap run. Best job I ever had.
We do very low volume mining vehicles and often get unique requests.
I recently needed an electrical enclosure for an odd application and was able to fulfill it through Redeye (Stratasys). Free from the cost constraints of buying a mold or limited geometry of stock enclosures I was able to supply a much better product. The Redeye service had some very rugged (I chose a ABS/PC blend) material choices and a user friendly outmated quote process that really helped me refine my design from a cost stand point (small changes can really reduce cost).
This was a end use solutiion for us.
Rapid manufacturing techniques can also allow you to create shapes that simply cannot be molded or machined. This is only going to get better, cheaper and faster-and rather quickly I expect.
@gsmith120: I'm definnitely hearing a lot more about companies deploying 3D printing for low-grade production parts. The significant advances in quality, durability, accuracy for part tolerances, coupled with falling prices is making this a no-brainer for companies. I suspect we're going to see a lot more activity on this front going forward.
I wanted to mention that my current contract assignment led me into sourcing some prototypes last month, and I got my very first experience with Z-Corp selective color 3D parts.Wow.Dimensional accuracy, full color legible labeling on the part surfaces, and tough, yet flexible parts.State of the art; most impressive rapid turn parts I've seen yet.It's probably a very sour taste to the Z-Corp providers that we still refer generically to 24 hour turn parts as SLA's.....so I suppose my adult son would say, "This is NOT your father's SLA !"
While reading the article I was thinking if the company was considering using 3d parts in the final product. Must have read my mind because that question was answered in the next sentence. I like the fact that the 3d printouts are used for prototyping but really like the use of them in low rate mfg products.
Beth, this is really exciting news in the 3D printing/additive manufacturing arena. Aerospace and race car makers have been using some forms of 3D printing for onsite repair and for short runs of components, but to see so many end-use parts designed and printed this way is a major breakthrough.
3D printing technology has been used in the vintage car market for years. I first heard about it in an interview with Jay Leno and his head mechanic. They used 3D printing to create or replace impossible to find parts for Jay's extensive collection.
Increased innovation in the automotive industry is exciting and long overdue.
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