In a recent episode of 3D Talk Show, 3YOURMIND hosted experts from Ford Motor Company and Trinkle to discuss how additive manufacturing enables mass part customization.
Additive manufacturing (AM) has become an attractive production method for its ability to create custom parts with greater design flexibility. But is it the best option for the automotive industry because additive manufacturing can create custom parts?
In a recent episode of 3D Talk Show, we hosted Jamie Ortiz-Cañavate, manufacturing and plant engineer manager at Ford Motor Company, and Ole von Seelen, head of business development and strategic marketing at Trinkle 3D, to discuss mass part customization for the automotive industry.
According to von Seelen, there are two primary routes for the automotive industry to leverage AM for part customization.
"The more visionary route is to think of custom end parts," says von Seelan. "When we entered additive manufacturing in the automotive world, we thought about internal or external aesthetic car parts and these interior parts, exterior parts we see them already today."
"We also see [custom end parts] quite a lot in smaller production volumes," says von Seelan. "So in fleet vehicles, for instance, this is very interesting."
However, von Seelan says it will be some time before custom end parts become the primary market phenomenon.
The second route for AM part customization, according to von Seelan, is production aids. Although significantly less flashy than custom after-market parts, production aids, which can include items like jigs, fixtures, and tools, also benefit from greater customization because of their frequently changing variations.
According to Ortiz-Cañavate, customizing production aids using additive manufacturing can yield significant benefits, including weight reduction, less energy needed to produce the part, and shorter production lead times.
"Before, it took a couple of months to make a [production aid] part," says Ortiz-Cañavate. "Now, in a matter of a couple of days, you have [the part], and it's very easy to redesign and modify."
Customizing production aids is critical because it allows production aids to adapt to changing products.
"So if the product changes slightly, we just do a small change," says Ortiz-Cañavate. "And that all goes into big environmental benefits."
Although many 3D printing advocates look to additive manufacturing to create breakthrough innovations, the best applications are sometimes the most simple.
"Sometimes it's the easy solutions where additive manufacturing is used for where you save money instantly," says von Seelan. "And this is why you might not see it at first glance. You always think down the road and see the super, super sexy bionic structure designs and so on, but sometimes the easier applications are the ones you can already save money with."
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