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Automotive and 3D Printing...

3D printing technology continues to evolve from being primarily used for prototyping to being a serious option for low volume production parts.  The automotive industry is beginning to take 3D printed car parts seriously.  Carbon3D, a startup in Redwood City, California, is supplying production parts made from polymers to BMW Ag and Ford Motor Company and they are now working with Delphi Automotive to line up more customers.

New 3D printing materials are being developed for new applications.  Alcoa recently invested $60 million in its Pittsburg R&D center to develop 3D printer that could form components from aluminum, titanium and other alloys, and General Electric has begun using 3D printers to manufacture fuel nozzles out of powdered metal for jet engines.

The benefit of the technology is it allows manufacturers to avoid spending huge amounts to tool up assembly lines to make parts, or to build tool and dies to produce early prototypes parts.  In some cases, multiple versions of a prototype parts are required as design engineers try to get the parts to meet the design and performance specs.  Additionally, additive manufactured parts can be done in hours versus the weeks that are required when tools and dies are required.

Historically the downside of 3D printing has been its speed and cost, but Carbon3D is locking to supplant traditional injection molds on low-volume production runs of 50,000 units a year or less.  The commercial printers being used by Carbon3D are 100 times faster than previous-general printers and the parts match the strength of parts produced by injection molds.  This would make the technology a practical way of meeting the needs of service parts.  An auto parts store to use a 3D printer and print parts on demand instead of keeping them in stock.

If you have questions or need assistance with 3D printing or material selection, please call 815-578-8888 and ask for Greg Showers, or complete the Contact Us page on our website.


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