Will 3D Printing Replace Traditional Auto Parts Manufacturing Way?

Will 3D printing replace traditional parts manufacturing technology?Latest 3D printing automatic parts dynamics

Most recently, Tesla produced some of its automotive parts in 3D printing.

As a new technology for component manufacturing, 3D printing can, to a certain extent, improve the efficiency and accuracy of parts manufacturing and reduce costs.

Recently, with the effect of the pneumonia epidemic, there have been frequent crises in the automotive parts and components supply chain. Many automotive and parts companies are trying to solve this problem. Some companies have turned to 3D printing as one of the solutions to their challenges.

Tesla Model YRecently, Tesla disclosed that Slant3D is a home-based, clustered 3D printer manufacturing company among companies that produce parts for Tesla Model Y. In April this year, in response to the pneumonia epidemic problem, which caused some automotive parts and components companies in Europe and the United States to stop and cut production, the company began to manufacture parts such as car air-conditioning housings for Tesla Model Y. This time, the new 3D printing process of “polymer-oriented energy deposition” is used to manufacture components, which solve the problem of supply of parts if many parts suppliers in Europe and the United States stop and cut production, and also improve the productivity of these components.

3D printing technology can solve immediate needs, increase product sales, and improve the efficiency of automotive parts and components and automotive systems.

CrankshaftSince March, Honda’s R&D department has partnered with Autodesk, a 3D printing company, to design an automotive engine Crankshaft, manufactured using 3D printing technology, which enables lightweight vehicles and increases engine fuel economy.

The crankshaft plays a vital role in the car engine. This component can convert the piston swing into a rotating force, which has high requirements for wear resistance Crankshaft must be shaped to withstand combustion pressure and maintain a balanced rotation at all times. The above factors cause the crankshaft to be designed in a more or less stereotyped way. In the development of engine technology, the crankshaft has hardly changed significantly. The crankshaft produced in Honda 3D printing is now 30 percent less weight than its predecessor, making it a breakthrough in fuel economy.

Industry experts believe that the 3D printing technology advantage is that it does not have to develop manufacturing tools and purchase production equipment.

It is flexible, suitable for complex shapes and structures, ideal for composite materials, The streamlining of the process and other characteristics have precisely overcome the deficiencies of the traditional production process of parts and components for some automobiles.

At present, the automotive parts and components industry produces billions of metal parts every year. When 3D printing matures, it will revolutionize traditional manufacturing, such as automotive parts and components.

More and more businesses are adopting 3D printing technology to manufacture part of their automotive components. General Motors Company worked with Autodesk to manufacture automotive stainless steel seat holders in 3D printing. With 3D printing technology, you can reduce the weight of automotive parts by 40 percent and increase the strength by 20 percent.

In the European automotive industry, many companies have started new exploration. At present, the Volkswagen Parts Department has initially formed 3D printing manufacturing capability, mainly for high-end brand model components with small size and complex construction. We all believe that 3D printing of metal components not only enables more complex structures but also reduces material waste than traditional manufacturing processes. Besides, 3D prints lighter parts, reducing fuel consumption while maintaining performance.

“3D printing technology can solve the problems of precision and standardization in the production of automotive parts and components, and can also provide emergency manufacturing methods under extraordinary conditions such as an epidemic. It is a promising new technology that deserves development.” Cao He said in an interview with a reporter from China Automobile.

Does 3D printing mean an alternative to the traditional manufacturing of automotive parts?

Many enterprises have started a new exploration of using 3D printing technology to manufacture automotive parts, but to produce automotive parts on a large scale, few of them have yet to rely entirely on 3D printing.

The application of 3D printing technology in the manufacturing of certain automotive parts involves four main areas: Powertrain, chassis parts, interior, and exterior.

  • On the powertrain assembly, European sports car manufacturer Lamborkini uses 3D printing technology to build engine pipelines for his sports car, creating complex geometry.
  • On chassis, production assembly tools and functional testing are two typical applications of 3D printing technology in the development and production of automotive chassis systems.
  • On the exterior, 3D printing has become an integral part of BMW’s development cycle.
  • On the interior, 3D printing can make parts such as the instrument panel, air conditioning exhaust fan, steering wheel, car control lever, etc.

3D printing costs are getting lower, and technology is becoming more advanced, full-vehicle manufacturers no longer need mass parts and components but need research and development design services, rely on 3D printing to manufacture. 3D printers will replace a large number of front-line production workers. In case 3D printing technology can produce most components on a large scale, it will pose a significant threat and challenge to traditional parts manufacturing companies.

People in the industry believe that 3D printing for manufacturing automotive parts and components has advantages as well as disadvantages.

Key benefits of 3D printing auto parts:

  1. there is almost no limit to the design. Traditional manufacturing techniques have limited parts and products in shape, and component manufacturing capabilities are subject to the tools used.
  2. there is no need for a large number of technicians. Traditional manufacturing technicians need to accumulate years of experience to acquire the required skills precisely. Batch production and computer-controlled manufacturing machines reduce skill requirements, and non-skilled manufacturing opens up new business models and provides people with new ways to manufacture components in remote environments or extreme situations.
  3. there are various combinations of materials. Combining different raw materials into a single component product is difficult for traditional manufacturing methods. Multi-material 3D printing technology could easily combine other natural materials with unique properties or functions.
  4. reduce waste by-products. The 3D printing mechanism produces fewer by-products in metal parts than traditional metal manufacturing techniques. The waste of components produced by traditional metal processing methods is staggering, and 3D printing delivers metals with less waste. As printing materials advance, “clean form” manufacturing may become a more environmentally friendly way of processing.
  5. it is portable manufacturing. 3D printer devices can move freely compared to traditional manufacturing machines and can print items that are larger than they are.

3D printing disadvantages for automatic parts

The first is the limitation of the material type. 3D printers have many requirements for the materials that can be used, such as grain granularity, adhesion, proper humidity, temperature, etc., and many materials are expensive.

The second is the higher cost, and the 3D printer that can be used in industrial manufacturing is not only expensive in itself, but also the higher price of the materials used, so there is no cost advantage.

The third is the issue of intellectual property rights. With the increased protection of property and intellectual property rights worldwide in recent years, 3D printing components may infringe upon the legitimate rights and interests of the inventors.

While 3D printing has been successful in simplifying some of the traditional and complex parts production processes and in programming the challenging problems in the material field, there are still some problems in extending the application of 3D printing technology. Limited by technical equipment, new materials, design software, quality safety, and public environment, and so on, it is currently only suitable for the manufacturing of parts with small batches, small sizes, high precision, and complicated styling—high-volume manufacturing advantage.

“3D printing adds new technology to component manufacturing to some extent, and it is not logical or realistic to expect it to be a complete replacement for traditional manufacturing.”  Du Fangci, an adviser to the China Automobile Industry Association, told the reporter of China Automobile.

China 3d printing status

3D printing technology is increasing and is becoming more widely used in the automotive component manufacturing industry.

At present, in domestic automobile parts, parts such as automobile air-conditioning, instrument control console, air-conditioning heatsink, compressor end cap, door guard, intercooler tube, high-pressure electrical box, etc. have appeared in 3D printed and manufactured products.

China has a large number of automotive parts and components manufacturing enterprises. But, the overall level is not high, showing the status of “big and not strong,” and the use of 3D printing technology is not common. There is still a particular gap between the industrial-grade 3D printing manufacturing equipment in China and the advanced level abroad. Most equipment is inadequate in terms of precision, reliability, durability, the supply of supplies, etc., and high-end equipment and supplies need to be imported.

Also, some critical devices like laser head for industrial-grade 3D printer equipment in China still need to import. Also, the quality and variety of materials used in domestic printing supplies are far worse than those in Europe and the United States, and many materials will still need to be imported.

At present, the manufacturing of automotive parts and components in all major developed countries in the world is developing 3D printing technology. New materials, new technologies, and new products are emerging in 3D printing, the scope of application is expanding, and the industrial scale is growing.

Currently, the main problems in the manufacture of 3D printing of domestic components include:

First, enterprises do not pay enough importance. The development of the 3D printing industry involves materials, control, photovoltaic, mechanical, Traditional, and cutting-edge technologies, which require the practice of relevant enterprises such as automobile parts and components manufacturing. However, 3D printing is not common. Many enterprises have not adopted 3 D Printed to make the part.

“On the one hand, equipment is expensive and raw materials used are expensive, and on the other hand, printing technology is not mature enough, such as some parts are not strong enough.” The responsible person of a component company in Zhejiang told the reporter of China Automobile.

Second, the market size is limited. “Changing from traditional parts manufacturing to 3D printing requires technical verification, which takes time and cost, who will pay for it? And there is a risk that it will eventually become unavailable. The entire factory is difficult to accept at this time, so we do not have a 3D printing manufacturing project.” Said by a related person from a component enterprise in Shandong province

Third, the industrial chain is not compatible. “Even with the purchase of 3D printing equipment, maintenance is a problem.” A responsible person from an automobile injection molding enterprise in Guangdong told the reporter that the 3D printing equipment in China has not yet formed a complete industrial chain, and the service is not up to date. It is also a difficulty that makes 3D printing difficult for a large number of applications.

Fourth, there are still problems in the manufacture of 3D printing of automotive parts and components, such as inadequate technical standards and lack of professional personnel, which are also constraints.

In addition to technical and market factors, the promotion of 3D printing technology in domestic parts and components also has legal issues related to the protection of property rights. “What you need to be highly focused on is that we can not ignore the intellectual property issues.” Li Shunde, a researcher of the Institute of Law of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said: