In 1885, the German engineer Karl Benz made the first Benz patent motor vehicle, the world’s first true sense of the car was born, in 1915, 30 years later, Ford produced the world’s first box car and achieved mass production, the automobile industry has since entered the fast lane of development. Coincidentally, 3D printing technology has also been around for more than 30 years, during which time its technology types continue to enrich, the process continues to mature and improve, the application field continues to expand, people from all walks of life are also actively exploring the breadth and depth of this technology can achieve. The automotive industry is not only one of them, it can even be said that the current 3D printing application is the most mature field. So how does 3D printing, a technology that has only been developed for more than 30 years, combine with the automotive industry and react chemically?
First of all, “car +3D printing” must be the car in front, 3D printing in the back, the car is the main body, and 3D printing is the tool. The purpose is to use the characteristics and advantages of 3D printing to improve the quality or optimize the process for the final product and its design and manufacturing process, and not fall into the trap of use for use. Therefore, in recent years, “car +3D printing” has slowly moved from an eye-grabbing concept that is forgotten after watching at an exhibition to the actual research and development trial production work, to the replacement and optimization of some parts, and even finally to the real realization of mass-produced 3D printed cars on the market. Therefore, at present, 3D printing can be combined with the automotive industry, in the development of trial production, production line tooling clamp, customized modification, and mass production of these links.
Back to the final product, the car. A car can be simply divided into the engine, chassis, body, and electrical equipment, which can also be subdivided into more subsystems, usually, the number of parts on a car reaches 10,000 to 20,000, according to the type of material that can be roughly divided into metal and non-metal 2 categories, of which metal parts account for the majority. It is used in the engine, gearbox, body, frame, suspension, chassis, and electronic equipment, while non-metallic materials are mainly used in the interior, exterior trim, seals, tires, and other parts of the vehicle.
In the design and development stage of the vehicle, if only size and assembly verification are considered, almost the vast majority of non-precision parts on the vehicle can currently be manufactured by 3D printing technology and meet the requirements of verification; However, if you want to achieve functional verification, or even leave the research and development stage, to achieve final use and even mass production, then the number of parts that can be manufactured and replaced by 3D printing will be reduced, because it is necessary to choose the appropriate 3D printing materials and processes, and match the actual working conditions of the parts, which often requires active exploration and communication between the automotive and 3D practitioners. And invest time and energy in it, which is the most difficult part of the application of new technology. But today we do see the emergence of one new application after another, and the chemical reaction between 3D printing and the automotive industry is also more and more enthusiastic.
Dongfeng Motor Group uses SLS technology to print prototype parts during the trial production of new cars, including the center control panel printed with Precimid1172Pro GF30 BLK material and the distribution box housing printed with Precimid1172Pro material. The former is a 30% glass-reinforced nylon 12 material. With excellent strength and impact resistance, the latter is a general-purpose nylon 12 material, with good overall performance and surface quality. After using 3D printing technology, Dongfeng Motor can avoid the injection molding or machining processes needed to manufacture plastic parts, simplify the manufacturing process of prototype parts, and reduce outsourcing costs and the risk of model leakage.
In addition, GAC Group also focuses on the application of SLS technology in the field of R & D and trial production, but its application is wider, and the printed parts cover the interior and exterior decoration of the car, heat exchange system, powertrain, chassis and other parts, which can be used in the four verification work including appearance, structure, installation, ergonomics, as many as dozens of categories (the picture is not convenient to show here). The process of outsourcing includes demand – cost application – inquiry – delivery – receipt – acceptance, the cycle is usually 2-3 weeks after the SLS 3D printing equipment is put into production, and the process is shortened to 4 steps: demand – processing – receipt – acceptance, the fastest 4 days can start the verification work, and the process is in the company.
Of course, in the 3D printing technology and the automotive industry more and more closely combined today, we also have to see: At present, most automotive practitioners do not understand the latest development and ability of 3D printing technology, and there are not many people in the field of 3D printing who can truly understand the needs of the automotive industry, and there are still insufficient 3D printing technology itself at this stage, which still limits the expansion and depth of 3D printing in the automotive industry, but we also have confidence: 3D printing development so far but more than 30 years, the types of materials are still constantly rich, production costs are constantly reducing, the process is gradually mature, in addition, both the automotive and 3D printing practitioners are actively moving towards the same direction, the large-scale use of 3D printing technology in the automotive industry will soon come.