Automotive Industry Leaders Shift Production Processes with 3D Printing

Ana Carolina Rocha | October 28, 2016 | 4 min read

Eliminating Overproduction & Simplifying Assembly

Whenever a new technology is introduced to a production process, several questions arise, such as

  • “How would this enable money saving?”
  • “Do we have the capacity to master this technology and integrate it into our current operations?”
  • “What specific aspects will this enable us to improve?”

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Photo Source: Blade

Making the move towards a fuller integration of new additive manufacturing techniques is becoming easier based on the open progress by existing automobile manufacturers.  The leading names in the industry are already using 3D Printing to:

  • Reducing Inventory Overhead
  • Reduce of manufacturing timelines (think minutes, not days)
  • Enabling new designs with shorter time-to-market

Leading companies in the Automotive industry have already taking the harder steps upon the new technology. Find in their outcome some of the key answers to the questions spinning around the implementation of 3D Printing in the automotive Industry.

Eliminating Overproduction Produce on Demand

For an auto manufacturer, overproduction is less a question of environmental responsibility and more of a question of remaining competitive in the market. But the end result is that they want to eliminate unnecessary production. Their goal is to balance access to parts and feature selection while keep excess production and storage to a minimum.

As auto manufacturers have shifted to a “pull inventory” model for replacement parts, additive manufacturing allows the implementation of a “pull production” triggered automatically by online inventory management, which also goes hand in hand with decentralization of production.

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Photo source: 3Ders

From Local to Global

Decentralization of production processes with additive manufacturing offers two huge benefits. In first place, a well-calibrated machine across the world will produce the same quality product results regardless of the location. And secondly, a completely new part can be produced by switching a design file, eliminating re-tooling and setup costs from traditional manufacturing.

Moreover, manufacturing closer to the source has an additional benefit, it reduces delivery periods lowering transportation costs and taxes, eliminating traditional customs controls as well as further potential delays. This is also linked to Audi experience in which not only was it possible to solve long distance shippings issues, but also eliminate overproduction thanks to the implementation of Additive Manufacturing to production processes.

“With strategic placement of 3D printers around the globe, though, Audi has managed to eliminate overproduction of certain parts and can now print them on demand. This saves a vast amount of money sitting in idle stock.” (3D Printing Industry)

This is clearly the first step on a long journey and Audi is working towards a 3D printing workflow that could, in the end, eliminate the production line as we know it.

The German manufacturer is working with both Direct Metal Laser Sintering and Electron Beam Additive manufacturing to perfect the process and it won’t be long before additive manufacturing is totally ingrained in the manufacturing process.”

Parts of Demand & Unique Geometries

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Photo source: Acura

Another positive aspect of printing on demand, is that it opens a pathway to mass individualization, leading to Honda experience. Unlike traditional production processes, there is no cost to switching designs, so moving more parts to additive manufacturing allows auto manufacturers to customize additional car parts.

“Customers want to feel special, they want their car to be unique and they’re happy to pay for the privilege. In times gone by the aftermarket tuners were the ones to get this custom, but now the manufacturers themselves can offer special finishes and additional touches with 3D printing.” (3D Printing Industry)

Think custom shapes within the plastic molded interior, or custom wiring channels printed into the panels based on the selected electronic components. While this is still in its infancy, the ability to customize production based on specific design selections at no additional cost will open the selection process to much more than just paint color.

Two of the biggest and most popular car manufacturers have switched to 3D Printing obtaining positive results in their production chain, without forgetting customer demands in the way.

There are other experience in the automotive industry affecting Producing and Design pace, while improving team communication, and employees working conditions.

Interested in More?

Our next post will cover how Additive Manufacturing is increasing the pace of design and production. You can read it here at our Blog or follow us on Twitter @3yourmind

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