Automotive industry

What is the future of 3D printing in the automotive industry?

As more automakers embrace electric vehicle production, engineers are looking for design changes that improve range and fuel efficiency.

According to an industry expert at Siemens, one-way teams address range anxiety: making the vehicle weigh significantly less.

“Electric vehicle range has become a critical factor for the consumer purchasing these vehicles,” said Suresh Rama, portfolio development manager at Siemens., in a live Technical Briefs presentation this month . “This translates into lightening the body, whether some manufacturers deem it necessary immediately or not.”

However, new materials such as high tensile steel, aluminum alloys, carbon fiber and polymer composites also require new ways of working with them.

“It is important to incorporate not only new materials into the production of electric vehicles, but also new manufacturing processes,” Rama said.

Do these new “manufacturing processes” include additive manufacturing?

Also known as “3D printing”, additive manufacturing technology has been used to manufacture prototypes and custom parts – with a variety of lightweight materials.

However, high entry costs and lack of familiarity with 3D printing technology have prevented additive manufacturing from taking a firm foothold in automotive factories.

A Technical Briefs reader had the following question:

“What is your estimate of when the automotive industry will transition from traditional manufacturing processes to additive manufacturing? And do you think that will happen in 2 years? 5 years? 20 years? Or some date beyond 2023 ?

Suresh Rama, Head of Portfolio Development at Siemens

Read Suresh’s edited answer below.

Suresh Rama: I wish I had a crystal ball. Whenever I go into predicting such a paradigm shift from one to another, it always gets me in trouble!

I think additive manufacturing is coming fast. I’d say it’s a bit past the 10 year mark – but not because of the maturity of additive manufacturing.

When I talk to my son, who is into robotics, he makes parts to add to his FIRST robot using additive manufacturing. Additive manufacturing has become commonplace. There’s a 3D printer, and he prints it himself.

These are the people who are coming in as the next generation workforce. When they are in the workforce and enter a labor market experience phase, 10-15 years from now, they will bring these ideologies into the manufacturing fold – more so than those currently trying to shift the paradigm . This is where I base most of my speculation on whether additive manufacturing is going to become more of an everyday affair.

Moreover, additive manufacturing brings to light the possibility of making products with exotic materials, which is not possible in the traditional way. And also, to manufacture complex structures that will now integrate and replace a set of assemblies of traditional manufactured parts.

And finally, I want to draw attention to the sustainability factor. As we become greener and energy consumption is going to be an important thing to watch, it is now becoming a bigger change that is going to propel us towards additive manufacturing.

What do you think? Share your questions and comments below.

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