In this featured blog post, FATHOM highlights the top three ways leading automotive companies, including Mercedes, Opel, Honda, McLaren, and Penske, are using additive manufacturing to stay ahead of their competitors.
NO. 1—TOOLING, JIGS & FIXTURES
The time to first article through traditional tooling is typically more than five weeks—however, 3D printed tooling can deliver molded parts within days. Without the up-front investment associated with traditional tooling, auto manufacturers can iterate faster and more frequently before going into large-scale production. 3D printing also makes it possible to create customized manufacturing tools on-demand for the production floor.
European automotive manufacturer Opel is reducing the cost of tooling production by up to 90%, according to some of its division leaders. Some assembly tools, through 3D printing, are created in less than 24 hours.
With efficient production crucial to its success, Opel’s International Technical Development Center is 3D printing a range of manufacturing and assembly tools to advance the production of its iconic hatchback car.
“Besides the cut in tool production time and considerable cost reductions, customized tools are a third important benefit achieved with 3D printing,” says Sascha Holl, Virtual Simulation Engineer of Tool Design at Opel. “We are now able to produce more complex shapes than we could via conventional manufacturing. This crucially allows us to adapt the tool to the worker and the specific car.”
For example, some assembly tools are used to precisely attach different components to the car, such as the rocker molding and roof spoilers; align the iconic ‘Adam’ lettering on the rear-side window; and assemble the glass and retractable roofs.
“Cases like Opel emphasize the massive impact that low risk, high-reward 3D printed parts – such as manufacturing tools – can have on production efficiency,” says Andy Middleton, President, Stratasys, EMEA. “The capability to produce such items on-demand at a reduced costs can significantly accelerate time-to-production and give businesses that competitive edge. Combine that with the ability to customize tools efficiently, as well as create complex geometries, and you can see why Opel is indicative of the way in which additive manufacturing is transforming our customer’s production operations.”
Rolls Royce Supplier 3D Prints Jigs & Fixtures in 90% Less Time at 50% Less Cost
Peak Production Equipment, supplier to Rolls Royce and Siemens, relies extensively on Stratasys FDM-based 3D printers to create specialized jigs and fixtures for automotive production. Using Stratasys’ Nylon 12 and ABS materials, Peak Production can achieve part strength comparable to CNC machining, in much shorter timelines.
“We purchased our Stratasys Fortus 3D Printer 18 months ago and since then it has been running 24/7, including nights, holidays and weekends,” explained Richard Bushell, Group Managing Director, Peak Group. “3D printing offers us a new level of flexibility and versatility when it comes to production. We can 3D print complex tools of different sizes and materials on-demand in a fraction of the time, compared to traditional CNC tooling. We’ve also cut down on a number of manual processes, saving operator and labor hours which can now be redistributed elsewhere in the company—increasing our overall efficiency.”
NO. 2—ACCELERATING PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT
3D printing has proven itself time and again as an excellent prototyping and product development tool. With the ability to deliver parts faster previously possible, its value is obvious—3D printing is speeding users ahead of their competitors in the marketplace. Through recent partnerships with Stratasys, both McLaren Racing and the Penske Team are gearing up to outfit their newest racing vehicles with a collection of 3D printed parts, and Mercedes has iterated new concepts with FATHOM.
Stratasys is supplying McLaren Racing with numerous 3D printing and additive manufacturing solutions, taking the role of official additive manufacturing supplier to the McLaren Honda Formula 1 team.
McLaren Racing is receiving Stratasys’ latest FDM– and PolyJet-based solutions for visual and functional prototyping, production tooling including composite tooling, and customized production parts. This enables accelerated delivery while increasing performance and productivity in McLaren’s design and manufacturing operations.
“The ability to rapidly model, build and evaluate new components is an invaluable asset for any fast-moving and dynamic racing organization. But our new partnership with Stratasys will not only increase our output in that area, but also allow us to dynamically explore and utilize the cutting edge of Stratasys’ new 3D printing innovations and solutions,” said Eric Boullier, racing director of McLaren Racing. “It has become clear that motorsport’s reliance on rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing, and the ability to radically cut time to market, is increasing, and we look to being well served by our new alliance with Stratasys.”
Stratasys has entered into a technical partnership with Team Penske, an American professional stock car and open-wheel racing team. The partnership, which comes in the form of a multi-year agreement, will see Stratasys support Team Penske by providing equipment and services for engineering and manufacturing across its NASCAR and IndyCar racing platforms. Team Penske participates in several motorsport competitions, including the Verizon IndyCar Series, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
“Our strategic partnership with Stratasys should keep our manufacturing and engineering processes at the front of the pack,” commented Team Penske President Tim Cindric. “Stratasys is on the cutting edge of additive manufacturing technology for automotive applications. Utilizing their equipment and technical support will provide us with another means to put our ideas on the race track first.”
FATHOM and Mercedes Speed Up Product Development
The FATHOM team recently worked with the Mercedes-Benz Xtron Lab to produce more than 240 electromechanical tiles for an IoT-connected cargo delivery management system in just under 5 weeks. Mercedes was able to move from concept to fully functioning prototypes on an extremely tight timeline, and was featured on CNET “On Cars” for the cutting edge system and use of additive in product development. The team also 3D printed fixtures to speed up the assembly time.
NO. 3—LEVERAGING MASS CUSTOMIZATION
With the ability to create personalized products for end-users at a lower cost, automotive manufacturers are utilizing agility to customize vehicles for each customer. Honda and Toyota have already begun to offer custom components for certain product lines, 3D printing final parts per specific users.
Honda Access Company Ltd. creates and sells custom add-on parts for Honda vehicles worldwide from its headquarters in Saitama Prefecture, Japan. Each vehicle model has up to 300 custom accessories that can be added to match the customer’s desires and practical demands per region. Wheels, mirrors, knobs, parts of the trunk, and more features are eligible for customization.
“We have to take into account a range of considerations, such as regional driver preferences and climate and road surface conditions when designing the accessories, offering distinct specifications according to a country’s needs and demand,” explained Hiroshi Takemori, a senior researcher from Honda Access’ product planning department, “In China [the CR-V] is positioned as the ultimate SUV and a status symbol. Since the vehicle body is built to the same standards worldwide, we use the accessories to give the car a little regional flavor.”
With so many developments in a fast-changing industry like additive manufacturing, the headlines can really stack up. To cut through the clutter of 3D printing news, follow our weekly blog “Change is Additive” for our staff picks of the week.