Additive Manufacturing in the Automotive Industry

By Samantha Bild on

Automotive-Industry-LPThe automotive industry is a hotbed of innovation in 3D printing. From startups to BMW, everyone is aggressively utilizing the technology in all aspects manufacturing. Take a look at some of our favorite case studies.

Local Motors – What’s a Microfactory?

Why does it still take the same amount of time to fly from New York to London as it did ten years ago? And why are automotive manufacturers still making parts using the same tactics as 50 years ago? These are the questions that keep companies like Local Motors up at night.

Early in 2014, our Tennessee offices were excited to hear that Local Motors was bringing a microfactory and storefront to Knoxville. Some would ask, “Why Knoxville?” We would happily brag that East Tennessee is the perfect place to build a company centered around additive manufacturing thanks to the capabilities offered by the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The world’s first 3D printed car was produced at MDF. Local Motors is disruptive and plans to produce cars in small batches at microfactories, using high levels of automation to save space, materials, energy, and time. The Knoxville factory is currently under construction with a planned opening in November 2015.

Recently the company announced that it plans to start selling the world’s first commercial 3D printed car in the first quarter of 2016. The first car with a body made from carbon fiber reinforced ABS plastic is priced between $18,000 and $30,000. Learn more about this project and Local Motors on their website.

BMW – Robots and People Coming Together

“What does the customer want and how can we provide that to them as quickly as possible?” – Charles Jeffrey, Department Manager BMW

Manufacturing is the most important factor in automaker profitability. While Detroit is no longer the power center of global automotive manufacturing, it doesn’t mean that the industry has offshored completely. In the past few years, there has been an influx of manufacturers into the United States, attracted through competitive incentives.

Case Study Stratasys BMWFor example, the Spartanburg, SC plant will be BMW’s biggest plant by 2016. This particular plant is driving innovation within BMW and is incorporating new technology to make operations more efficient and profitable. Even though processes are automated, there is a high level of customization at BMW.

For more information on how BMW is utilizing rapid prototyping in their manufacturing processes, download this whitepaper from Stratasys: Direct Digital Manufacturing at BMW.

FORD – 3D Printing in the Sandbox

Ford Motor Company has been utilizing additive manufacturing since its emergence on the markets in the late 1980s. Like other giants in the industry, Ford has a full blown 3D printing lab with technologies ranging from FDM to SLS. Many companies have a particular application in mind when considering 3D printing. FORD is utilizing additive manufacturing for several applications ranging from jigs and fixtures to concept models and functional prototypes.

FORD’s iterative design process allows them to develop highly optimized parts on a regular basis without the cost and time involved in tooling, saving the company billions of dollars. This has allowed them to print over 500,000 parts, ranging from engines to transmissions.

“We really didn’t understand the potential of what the capabilities of this process were going to be. It’s incredible.” – Roy Raymer, Project Coordinator, Rapid Manufacturing, Ford Motor Company
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Want to learn more on how 3D printing can establish your competitive advantage in the automotive industry? Contact us or learn more about our Fortus 3D printers from Stratasys.