Use of 3D Printers in the Automotive Industry
The use of 3D printers in the automotive industry is quite common. Our production director Onur Keskin explained the details of 3D printers' usage areas in automotive in this blog post.
Use of 3D Printers in the Automotive Industry
Developed in the early 1980s, 3D printer technology has become an indispensable part of manufacturing by becoming widespread thanks to the point it has reached today. This technology, which directly contributes to the manufacturing of a wide range of products such as medical, automotive, mould industry, defense industry, domestic goods and household appliances, is preferred with its fast production times, low cost and ability to produce complex geometries.
Prototyping Before Mass Manufacturing
In the automotive and automotive spare parts sector, 3D printers are preferred because they can provide flexible manufacturing with lower costs in line with these capabilities. The automotive industry world is interdisciplinary with very different components and materials. Considering that more than 30,000 parts in a vehicle come together to form it, working with other materials as a production method is an important parameter here.
For example, a vehicle in the design phase should be prototyped and produced most realistically, and necessary controls should be made before mass manufacturing. Here, 3D printers with FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) technology come into play, and plastic outer parts such as bumpers, grilles, fenders and similarly complex geometries are produced with ABS material. Since the outer surface of the materials coming out of the printers can be easily post-processed, the layered textures can be made smooth and perfect due to the manufacturing method. It is possible to produce parts of unlimited sizes with assembly and successive processes, even if partial manufacturing is made.
Manufacturing Of Parts In Complex Geometry
One of the other essential needs in automotive is to be able to produce high-strength parts. Due to the vehicle structure, some parts are designed in a complex structure. Traditional methods are not possible or are very difficult and costly in producing parts with internal channels, opposite angles or thin geometries. 3D printers are preferred for the production of these complex structures. The rapid production of complex structures from PA12 material with a precision of 0.1 mm facilitates the work of design engineers, speeds up the production process, and reduces costs. Thanks to the HP MJF technology, it is possible to produce up to 1000-1500 pieces by pre-mass production before the mass production begins. Due to the manufacturing quantity and material structure, necessary tests can be made for assembly and working function, and errors can be prevented before manufacturing.
With the increasing competition, all brands in the automotive industry are changing their manufacturing methods and revision their designs to reduce costs. It is up to 3D printers to meet the demand. Due to the features of MJF technology, parts are preferred with low shrinkage rates (0.3%), high tensile strength (48 MPa) and temperature resistance (90-95 degrees celsius)
Wide Range Of Material
For different material needs, alternatives can also be produced in 3D printers. For example, high-temperature resistant ULTEM 9085 (190C) and ULTEM 1010 (215C) thermoplastics can be used in engine parts where high heat is required.
At the same time, manufacturing with transparent material, which is another need, is also vital for the automotive industry. Production can be made with SLA technology for transparent parts such as mirrors and headlights. The product produced in SLA technology can also be post-processed, and surfaces with different transparency can be obtained.
The ability to produce metal alloy materials, which is one of the important production methods in 3D printers, provides flexibility in the automotive sector. Since ALSi10Mg, Ti64, StainlessSteel 316L materials are frequently used in the automotive industry, 3D printers provide a great advantage over traditional methods when production costs are compared. It can produce lighter structures with aluminium material and can be used in applications requiring high conductivity. Titanium material, on the other hand, can be used in places that require very high strength, although it is light. It also shows low corrosion resistance.
3D printers also produce fixture parts used during the cars' assembly. Thanks to these parts, the manufacturing process becomes faster and more practical. Especially today, where rapidly changing designs and customizable productions are increasing, 3D printers are preferred to provide flexibility and output speed. For example, fixture parts from 3D printers are used for gluing the texts on the trunk lids of vehicles.
Manufacturing Suitable For Topology Optimization
Production can be made in limited geometries allowed in traditional manufacturing methods. Due to this fixed geometry, parts are heavier, and design freedom is little. The manufacturing methodology of 3D printers allows complex structures to be produced. By optimizing the topology, the production of lightweight structures without changing their strength is made possible. As the weight of the parts used in the vehicles is reduced, the costs are also significantly reduced.
Personalized And Discontinued Spare Parts
In today's world, where mass manufacturing is decreasing and personalized production is increasing, the automotive industry is also one that turns to personalization. Developing material technology allows the final products produced in printers to be used in vehicles. The parts produced in aluminium alloy and titanium alloy metal printers can be used in various vehicle parts by being produced with high surface quality and are more robust than traditional methods.
Today, many automotive companies are experiencing manufacturing and cost problems in supplying spare parts for the vehicles they have removed from the production line. Manufacturing and storage are also particular problems for manufacturers, as they require a small number of parts and a large number of parts. 3D printers are used to solve this problem. Production is made as needed, and demand is directly met without storage costs.
With the developing technologies, 3D printing technology is also changing rapidly. Although it was initially used only for prototyping and testing as a manufacturing method, it is now used even in mass production in all sectors, including automotive, and its use is becoming increasingly common. It is up to valuable engineers, designers and factory workers to make a difference in the automotive industry, where the competitive environment is getting harder and harder. Those who can reveal their difference as a design and quickly turn it into reality and produce it will come forward and make a difference. Therefore, those who can adapt rapidly to the changing technology and use the changing manufacturing technologies will be able to undertake works with high added value.