Ford has become the first auto maker to utilize the Stratasys Infinite Build 3D printer for building large-scale one-piece auto parts.
3D printing automotive parts of any shape or length is the Stratasys Infinite Build system’s biggest strength. And it is this breakthrough that provides a more efficient, affordable way to create tooling, prototype parts and components for low-volume vehicles such as Ford Performance products, as well as personalized car parts.
The new 3D printer system is housed at Ford Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn, Michigan.
As 3D printing becomes increasingly efficient and affordable, companies are employing it for manufacturing applications in everything from aerospace to education to medicine. According to a Global Industry Analysts report, the worldwide market for this emerging technology is expected to reach $9.6 billion by 2020.
3D printing could bring immense benefits for automotive production, including the ability to produce lighter-weight parts that could lead to greater fuel efficiency. A 3D-printed spoiler, for instance, may weigh less than half its cast metal counterpart, contends Ford.
The technology is more cost efficient for production of low-volume parts for prototypes and specialized race car components. Additionally, Ford could use 3D printing to make larger tooling and fixtures, along with personalized components.
With 3D printing, specifications for a part are transferred from the computer-aided design program to the printer’s computer, which analyzes the design. The device then goes to work, printing one layer of material at a time, then gradually stacking layers into a finished 3D object.
When the system detects the raw material or supply material canister is empty, a robotic arm automatically replaces it with a full canister. This allows the printer to operate unattended for hours.
Image, excerpts and source: Ford Media