May 28, 2020
The automotive industry continues to face new challenges. New design trends, shorter time-to-market, and higher customer requirements made car manufacturers rethink their processes. A change in philosophy that welcomes Additive Manufacturing techniques into the industry.
When 3D-printing for end parts was introduced into the automotive industry, aesthetically pleasing car parts were the focus for designers and product managers. However, there was still a lack of possibilities to implement these techniques in the actual line manufacturing. But as car manufacturers saw the immense potential of additive manufacturing, the investment in research and development for these new techniques went through the roof. The current situation shows that both aftermarket and line manufacturing flows can be adapted to integrate custom made parts.
Reduction of inventory
Car manufacturers tend to only keep inventory of items that are high in demand. Leaving the rarely requested spare parts stored in a remote location. The advantage of additive manufacturing lies in the possibility to locally manufacture those rarely requested spare parts on demand. A good example of this technique is Porsche, who already 3D prints spare parts for collectors’ cars. This way Porsche is able to offer a wider range of spare parts which would be harder with traditional inventories.
Another use case is just in time delivery of parts that usually puts the pressure of supply at the tier supplier. With 3D printing ‘on demand’ manufacturing of parts that meet the exact demand is possible. There is no waste or stock buffering throughout the supply chain anymore.
More efficient tooling
During the design phase of car components, casting and tooling for components is prepared too. Leaving this way of working with one big issue: every time the design changes, casting and tooling must be redone as well. According to Harold Sears, Technical expert for Ford, creating and developing the prototype for the engine takes 4 months and costs around half a million dollars. Time and money that can be massively reduced when using additive manufacturing for prototyping. With 3D-printing, for example, Ford was able to make several iterations to the prototype in only four days and with a cost of around 3000 dollars. This video shows how Ford embraced additive manufacturing in their production process.
According to a report by Deloitte University Press, a way to reduce weight using additive manufacturing, is through alterations at a structural level. The ability of additive manufacturing to create complicated configurations plays an important role in reducing the weight. The use of lattice structures without compromising structural strength makes this possible. In this regard, the automotive industry can learn from the aerospace and defense industry, where a third of the revenues are spent on fuel and reducing component and overall weight is critical. This flexibility is extremely useful during the manufacturing of products with custom features, making it possible to add improved functionalities. Enabling features like integrated electrical wiring (through hollow structures), lower weight (through lattice structures), and complex geometries. Things that are not possible through traditional processes. (Deloitte University Press, 3D opportunity in the automotive industry, p. 4)
Improved customization possibilities
Thanks to the disrupted supply chain, flexibility and rapid turnaround time, personal customizations in the car industry are made possible. Advancements in digital production technologies have led to product innovations that transformed the technology from a product design tool to a tool for the direct production of high-performance parts with a fast turnaround.
Several car manufacturers already offer customized car parts to the end consumers. This enhances the customer experience for car buyers and increases the value proposition. End consumers can customize car parts including car wheels, leather interior with personal emblems or initials and even full dashboard trims. The technology that sets the tone for an industry that was traditional before.
Twikit recognized this importance from the start. A solution was developed where the whole process, from individualization and unique customer experiences to digital manufacturing, is covered. Together with its clients the software is implemented in the current systems. This way the OEM and suppliers create an end-to-end production environment. The customization possibilities are broad and accessible for car buyers to enhance their value perception.