3D Printing in the Automotive Industry

If you’ve never heard of 3D Printing you are robbing yourself of important and useful knowledge.  It is going to be the future of manufacturing and it’s coming up quick, so it’s something you should know about.

3D Printing is simple: It’s a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file on your computer.  It is created by laying down successive layers of material until the entire object is finished.  If you’ve ever used CAD, a Computer Aided Design program, then you’re already familiar with the first steps toward how an object is created with a 3D Printer.  You make the file in a CAD program and send it to the 3D Printer just as you would a regular paper printer.  Researchers and experts are already using 3D Printers for prototyping and various other things.  However, it is not necessarily being widely used.  Yet.3D PrintingLocal Motors, a fairly new company from Phoenix, AZ, did the impossible by 3D Printing a drivable car.  This is truly amazing but shouldn’t be unbelievable – because it happened in front of a bunch of people at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago last month.  The entire process of printing all 212 layers of the car took about two days.  The body was made of 15% carbon fiber and 85% ABS composite.  That body had to be put over top of all the internal parts such as the electric engine, steering components, and custom wheels – all of which were 3D Printed.  As you can see in the video, it turned out to be a very small but drivable car (HINT: Skip to about 3:15 to get to the real action).

Nissan Motorsports also did some experimenting with this technology; not to make an entire car but to prototype some cooling adjustments for their race cars.  The video below is a bit long but does show you some neat processes of the actual printing itself.

There is no doubt in my mind, 3D Printing an entire car that is safe, legal, and drivable on American roads will happen eventually; but a more reasonable and immediate expectation of 3D Printing will be to manufacture automotive parts on the spot at dealerships.  Dealer service shops, such as ours here at Preston Nissan Service, will be able to print out the parts needed to fix a car right at their location if they get a 3D Printer whenever they become available to the public.  I can honestly see this becoming a reality within the next 5 years.

It’s going to be an amazing technology to watch develop over the coming years.  The potential this has to change the automotive industry is unquantifiable because it is a brand new technology.  But here at Preston Automotive Group we’ll be watching it closely because we know the giant impact it can have in the very near future.

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