There is no doubt that over the past 10 years, every industry has been greatly impacted by additive technologies. It is true that 3D printing technologies have been mainly used for rapid prototyping, but the fast development of 3D printing hardware and software has paved the way for creating final parts in many situations. These new advances include the use of new materials, shorter lead times, and the possibility of producing innovative shapes and finishes that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.
In the automotive industry, 3D printing has been used for decades to rapidly prototype different car parts before going into full scale production. Short lead times and comparatively low costs, when producing a small number of items, has made 3D printing an ideal choice for testing prototypes.
One of the main areas in the automotive industry, where rapid prototyping and 3D printing have helped to improve standards and save lives, is the car testing sector. 3D printing techniques enable designers and engineers to rapidly test their ideas in real life situations without exaggerated costs.
One of the areas of great concern in the automotive industry is the safety of child seating. New 3D printing technologies enable designers to produce their exact ideas with the exact materials they have in mind to put them to test. In 2014, when car service provider Uber decided to offer child car seats to its customers, they resorted to 3D printing to rapidly prototype different models for testing. The result was a fast, super safe, and economically competitive child seat that surpassed expectations.
Testing 3D Printed Real Parts
Industry insiders know that some 3D printed car parts aren’t the real thing, meaning the material they are made off isn’t like the ones that are used in real production lines. This is due to the traditional limitations of some rapid prototyping techniques, including 3D printing. In the past, 3D printers were not able to 3D print metals, but new hardware on the market enable designers and engineers to produce final products. This in turn enables them to test for endurance of the final product and early expose and mitigate any potential hazards before even deciding on the production line. Dash CAE is a company that has been able to cut lead times by about 83% and rapidly prototype vehicle components that have been put to endurance tests before going into full production mode.
Increasing Car Safety by Cutting Costs and Lead Time
The automotive industry at its core is a business like any other, trying to increase the profit margin and surviving in an increasingly competitive landscape. Consumer interest groups and government regulations can try as hard as they want, but this whole dilemma will inevitably lead to decreased investments (or less increase for that matter) of time and money in car safety and its testing. Unless, we find new technologies and ways to cut costs and lead time. According to autonews.com, rapid prototyping techniques, and in particular new 3D printing hardware, have shortened product development cycles, cut prototype costs and reduced mechanical failures. There is a whole new economics in the game, where decreased prototyping costs and lead times, lead to more efficient testing cycles and safer cars.
Real 3D Printed Cars
While 3D printing prototypes have been very common in the automotive industry in the last few years, there is also an emerging trend of creating whole cars, or at least parts of cars, with 3D printers. Last year, we were introduced to a completely 3D printed car from Local Motors.
In 1915, cars were made like they are made today: On assembly lines with thousands of individual parts. Maybe it’s past time to change our ways and think about how things could be the same for so long.
If you are looking for new ideas and ways to take your business to the next level, why not contact us and have a chat with our experts about how 3D printing and rapid prototyping techniques could help your business.
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