The sports car model that has appeared recently on the streets of California demonstrates the possibilities tridimensional printing is creating for the automotive industry. The Blade, as it is called, is a super-sporty automobile with elegant, aerodynamic lines whose distinguishing feature is a chassis that was created and built entirely by means of tridimensional (3D) printing. This technology allowed for the use of a greater percentage of carbon fiber, which substantially reduced the amount of steel and aluminum in its construction. The result is a light, efficient, very eco-friendly automobile that, with its potent 700 CV engine powered by compressed natural gas, reaches an acceleration of 0–60 mph in 2.2 seconds. The Blade is built by Divergent Microfactories in San Francisco, California, and it has all the performance expected of a high-end, super-sporty automobile.
3D printing is a technological development that brings important opportunities to traditional manufacturing, including the automotive industry. Automakers have always used prototypes to test and define the final features in new models. Tridimensional printing now allows them to dramatically cut back the test periods. It makes it possible to reduce what formerly took months of development for getting new parts or testing materials to days or hours. Furthermore, it frees up creativity for designing details for comfort and personalization.
3D printing is a technological development that brings important opportunities to traditional manufacturing, including the automotive industry.
These technological advances have made it possible for the automotive industry to consider building automobiles with better features in terms of net weight, speed and reliability. The Ford Motor Company, for example, has been the first big auto manufacturer to test the Stratasys Infinite Build 3D printer for manufacturing large parts. Its objective is to produce lighter, more resistant parts that will improve fuel efficiency while also bringing down general costs and manufacturing times.
According to Stratasys, production by 3D printing reduces waste and the need for a large parts inventory, and also allows for greater flexibility in the assembly line.
Different industry observers think that soon consumers could be able to connect to the web and design automobiles according to their own specifications, which would then be sent to be printed in 3D so their personalized automobiles can be delivered to them in a few days. At the moment, 3D printing allows building spare parts with much faster delivery times and less need for maintaining non-productive stock. Audi, as well as other important car manufacturers, is researching how tridimensional printing could help improve efficiency in the supply chain.
According to the Deloitte University Press study “3D Opportunity in the Automotive Industry,” 3D technology has made it possible for German company BMW to create specific tools to be used during testing and assembly. The company, headquartered in Münich, reports that these tools have made possible savings of about 58 percent in total cost and 92 percent in time. Meanwhile, specialized publication SmarTech Markets mentions in its report that the 3D printing market in the automotive industry is expected to reach US$2.3 billion in 2021, compared to the US$600 million that it’s generating currently. ■