The additive manufacturing process of 3D printing has greatly reduced the cost of custom automotive parts. With detailed shapes and quick turnarounds, 3D printed parts are quickly becoming a go-to for modern automotive design and manufacturing.
The Complex Requirements of Automotive Manufacturing
Automotive parts need to meet standards of weight, complexity, temperature resistance, and moisture resistance. Small variations in these aspects can damage the integrity of testing and impact the performance of the final vehicle.
3D printed parts are created exactly as specified in the CAD source file. Complexity does not incur an additional cost, and weight can easily be determined by the material to be used. Many materials can be post-processed to achieve needed heat and moisture resistance.
For these reasons, many automotive manufacturers turn to a 3D printing service for prototyped pieces and pre-production runs. Both simple and complex designs can be made cheaply and quickly using additive manufacturing.
What Automotive Parts Can Be Made with 3D Printing?
3D printers can work with metal, nylon, resin, and many other materials. Nearly any custom automotive part can be created with a very short lead time.
- Bumpers – A 3D printer can easily make a full-size panel that can be sanded and painted. Easily replace front and rear bumpers and other aesthetic parts of the vehicle.
- Mounting brackets – Any CAD file can be quickly turned into a physical design. Create custom brackets with metal printing, or create plastic molds that can be used to cast metal brackets in the desired shape.
- Ducting – SLS printers can create variable wall thicknesses and surface webbing for no additional cost. This allows automotive engineers to manufacture optimized low-volume parts for a low production cost.
- Heat resistant parts – From battery covers to oil caps, nylon products made with SLS printing are heat resistant and can be applied under the hood.
- Flexible pieces – SLS printing can make semi-flexible parts from several materials. Use this application to make bellows and other suspension pieces.
- Complicated metal designs – Geometric complexity does not increase the cost of 3D printed parts. Create unique parts that would be impossible with CNC or other manufacturing methods.
- Interior accessories – Use SLA resin parts to make dashboard panels and cosmetic interior items. These parts can be finished and painted to exact specifications.
The Benefits of Custom Prototypes
One of the best uses of online 3D printing is to create instant prototypes of complicated parts. 3D printed parts are heat resistant and made to exact specifications; this makes them appropriate for functional testing and further design modification.
A common use of printing is the creation of headlight prototypes. SLA printing can create fully transparent resin models in high detail. Other common uses of the resin include dashboard designs, console models, and other aesthetic pieces.
Most prototype pieces are created with the same weight and tolerance as the potential finished produced. This lets engineers truly test and modify their designs. Print a single prototype part, make modifications, and print again until the design is perfect; then, order a small batch of parts that work exactly as needed.
Unlike injection molding and other manufacturing methods, printing services don’t have startup costs. Order as few or as many parts as needed for the same price per unit.