Traditional car parts are fabricated in machine shops and factories. Automakers employ hundreds of employees to create the parts for your cars, trucks, and SUV’s. In future years, we could see this change. Your car parts could come from a 3D printer in the future. Right now, car makers use 3D printers to print prototypes of their vehicles, but this technology could be revving up to become a primary maker of your auto’s parts.
Automotive use of 3D printing is estimated to generate $1.1 billion dollars by the year 2019 for the automotive industry. 3D printing is used heavily in prototype vehicles as well as prototype parts to make sure that the parts will fit in the vehicle as expected. They use it for test models, and have even used it in the creation of functional auto parts used in test vehicle engines.
Today, leading automotive makers use 3D printing to create a variety of tools, fixtures, and jigs in the automotive manufacturing process. Local Motors has issued a challenge to 3D printers to create a highway capable vehicle that is mainly constructed using 3D printed parts and construction. They want this challenge to serve as a proof of concept that 3D printing is not only functional, but economical.
Ford is now offering “mini” 3D printed vehicles as well as downloadable digital files that consumers can print. Local Motors wants to see the industry build cars using fewer parts which will eliminate the need for some tools. Submissions for the challenge were only open until June 15th, and the winner of the challenge will win $7500.
3D printing is expected to grow in popularity as the price of ownership comes down. This isn’t a problem for automakers who have the cash flow to purchase the printers, but some of these printers will have to adapt to the automakers needs if they are to see a permanent spot in the manufacturing process. They will also need to find a way to incorporate the workable parts into the existing vehicles. For consumers, 3D printing your auto parts could be a time saving way to get the parts you need for vehicle repairs.
“3D Printer” image courtesy of Shutterstock.