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3D Printing In The Fast Lane!

3D printing has once again shown that it is the new leader in flexible and cost effective manufacturing for the automotive industry, by allowing manufacturers to develop bespoke tools to deal not only with problems that occur during the manufacturing process, but also for general tooling.

It was once the case that when a problem with a manufacturing process occurred, an expensive and bespoke solution was required to save the day and allow the line to continue production. This involved manufacturers asking specialist companies to manufacture workarounds to problems before they were able to institute a fix themselves.

An example of this was recently discovered at a Volkswagen plant in Portugal, whereby an air drill used to secure wheel nuts to each axle was causing damage to new alloy wheels during fitting. As you can imagine, this is a simple and obvious problem that requires a simple and obvious workaround! A special jig was created using the newly installed 3D printers in the factory, which allowed the air drill to tighten the nuts whilst being kept away from the soft alloy metals of the wheels. The total cost to produce the jig was around 20 Euros, with a similar specialist manufactured part costing in the region of 800 Euros. On top of the huge cost saving, the part was produced in around 10 days, with a part from a specialist manufacturer taking around five or six times that long!

Using a 3D printed part to help in the production of another item is something that will become more and more common, as both production time frames and costs decrease with the continued use of automation and 3D printing. Producing specialist tools for each new vehicle produced is a very costly business and this can be easily overcome by using 3D printing to reduce this cost to a minimal level, which will hopefully filter down to the customer with lower initial purchase and servicing costs.

Looking into the future, it may even be the case that individual garages and service centres will be able to 3D print not only the tools required to complete certain jobs, but also the actual parts, which will allow stock levels to be reduced and time and costs slashed.

At NICE Rapid, we are not only experts in machine tooling, but also rapid prototyping. If you want a high-quality idea produced quickly, please do not hesitate to contact us!

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