Full-Scale Parts for Assembly Line Optimization
One way to reduce the costs of mass production in the automotive industry lies in the optimization of the assembly line. In addition to the tooling or jigs that are needed for assembly, which can be 3D-printed, there is also a need for training and optimizing for each part of the production line.
One innovative application of 3D printing that impacts assembly lines in the automotive industry is the production of full-scale parts to serve as mockups or tools for how best to paint real car parts. The duties of painting car parts in the mass manufacturing process are handled by robots, but even robots need training to maximize their efficiency and reduce errors. Rather than practice on real parts, car manufacturers have used mockups for this.
Of course, this has always meant outsourcing for these sample parts, which is a long and costly process. Leveraging 3D-printing, these mockups can be created on-site, and if they use a Massivit printer it also means having them ready in hours or days, rather than weeks or months. Owning a large-scale 3D printer allows car manufacturers to quickly optimize their painting process, saving valuable time as well as resources. The use of 3D printing also enables companies to quickly and easily produce new, adjusted parts for training as the car design and painting process evolves, reducing the need for traditional tooling and cutting overall costs for mass manufacturing.
3D Printed Car Batteries
While it may have seemed like science fiction not long ago, today we can actually 3D print car batteries. In fact, some companies are already doing this. Porsche Consulting and Sakuu, for example, have teamed up to create a revolutionary new battery that is manufactured through 3D printing.
The battery, made from a combination of metals, is highly conductive, lightweight and has a higher energy density than traditional batteries. The use of 3D printing allows for the creation of batteries with complex and intricate shapes, which can optimize the performance and increase the longevity of the battery.
The partnership was announced recently, and plans include the creation of the first ever additive manufacturing factory for commercial production of 3D printed lithium metal and solid-state batteries.
Cutting Costs on Car Engine Production
At the heart of a car is its engine, and we are well on our way to finding the heart of producing car engines with 3D printing. While additive manufacturing isn’t creating the engines themselves, the highly flexible technology is already playing a key role in their production lines.
Toyota, one of the world’s largest automakers, has implemented 3D printing into its production process. The company is utilizing its bank of 3D printers to produce a variety of prototypes, jigs and assembly tools critical to the production of automotive engines. Industrial additive manufacturing systems can also be used for larger parts, widening the impact 3D printing is making on their production lines.
What once needed to be subcontracted out, such as prototypes, jigs and assembly tools, can now be done in-house at their very own production facilities. This is allowing Toyota to streamline the production process by reducing lead times and costs, while also minimizing waste. The use of 3D printing has also increased the flexibility of Toyota’s production process, enabling the company to quickly and efficiently pivot in response to changing market demands.
Pedal to the Metal for 3D-Printing
All of these more recent innovations are just the latest for the automotive industry, which has long been known as one of the earliest adopters of the technology. BMW is a great example. The prestigious car manufacturer has been employing 3D printing in its production process for over 30 years! Recently the automotive giant unveiled their fully automated production lines for 3D printed car parts.
Clearly additive manufacturing has already revolutionized the automotive industry, and is bound for much, much more. Innovation in the technology has afforded companies the ability to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and improve end products. From 3D printed batteries and low-volume parts, to full-scale tooling to aid robots in mass manufacturing, and even tool-less manufacturing of FRP parts, the possibilities are endless and the benefits substantial. As the technology continues to evolve, it is likely that we will see even more automotive companies leveraging 3D printing to streamline their production processes and stay ahead of the competition.