Automotive additive manufacturing has been embedded into the core of the auto industry in the form of rapid prototyping since the very first AM technologies appeared at the end of the 1980s. In fact, General Motors was one of the four companies to install the very first 3D printer ever created, the SLA-1 from 3D Systems, in 1987. AM has subsequently gradually entered new areas of the automobile industry, such as motorsports and luxury limited editions, to then open new possibilities in terms of mass customization.

The next and final phase of automotive additive manufacturing adoption is now seeing AM radically alter supply chain and production dynamics, becoming the standard for tooling and enabling new possibilities in spare parts and obsolescence management. The ultimate goal is the introduction of AM technologies to digitalize and further automate serial mass production. In particular, the unstoppable EV revolution stands to both benefit and further drive adoption of AM, as weight optimization and integrated subassemblies become a key requirement to extend mileage and reduce energy consumption within increasingly “solid-state” vehicles.

As one of the first major consumer product industries to do so, the implications and the potential for this paradigm shift are extremely significant for both AM and the global manufacturing industry as a whole. The implications of automotive additive manufacturing extend to all industries linked to parts production, from raw materials to global distribution. The prospects, given the sheer scale of the global automotive market, are incredibly important for the development of automotive additive manufacturing technology. As high throughput AM technologies such as thermal powder bed fusion (MJF, HSS, SAF) and high-speed photopolymerization (DLS, cDLM, etc.) continue to become more established, this year we may finally see an escalation of metal AM adoption within automotive.

The production requirements of the automotive segment—and its subsegments—are unique, and strictly tied to both the underlying characteristics of the automotive segment (high productivity requirements, lower cost of materials, high automation of production), its changing trends (demand, regulations, scale economics, geopolitical situations, supply chain dynamics) and macro trends (propulsion systems, mass customization, smart mobility, connectivity and digitalization).

Most manufacturers of 3D printing technology have established strong ties and experience developing and selling solutions to the auto industry. The reality, however, is that the additive manufacturing industry at large is still only just waking up to the challenges associated with vertically integrated manufacturing solutions.

The next phase of innovation, adoption, and industrialization of automotive additive manufacturing passes through the scaling up of final parts production. In order for AM technologies to complete the necessary transition, several steps will need to be taken. These include continued investments in technology R&D from major stakeholders in both the AM and in the automotive industries; increased AM integration in the end-to-end manufacturing workflow to reduce costs and increase speeds, as well as the continued development of DfAM (Design for Additive Manufacturing) optimizations. With new machines such as SLM Solutions’ 12-laser NXG 600 system, Desktop Metal’s Production Systems, GE Additive’s H2, HP’s MetalJet and ExOne’s X1 160Pro targeted specifically at this market segment and arriving into the market this year, 2021 is already shaping up the most critical period for this next phase of AM’s growth.

In this first AM Focus of 2022, in partnership with some of the most important automotive and AM industry stakeholders, we build upon our previous 2020 focus on Automotive AM to continue to shed light on the latest developments for automotive additive manufacturing in terms of hardware technologies, material science and production automation, presenting an additional analysis of how AM is enabling the EV revolution.

  • EOS and Sauber Technologies sign three-year partnership on AM

    EOS, a leading supplier of industrial 3D printing technology, and Sauber Technologies, the company devoted to bringing Sauber’s Formula One mindset and innovation to businesses all over the world, signed a three-year AM technology partnership at the F1 Grand Prix in Barcelona, Spain, last weekend. The partnership includes installation of…

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  • Ceramic piston 3D printed by XJet for Chaos Ultra car. The only technology capable of achieving the necessary accuracy and complexity.

    Ceramic piston 3D printed by XJet for Chaos Ultra car

    The world’s first additively manufactured car engine piston, made entirely with ceramic, has been developed by Spyros Panopoulos Automotive (SPA) for its Chaos Ultra car using XJet technology. Spyros Panopoulos – SPA Founder, a pioneer in the automotive industry, and the man behind the ‘most efficient combustion engine on the…

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  • Divergent Technologies closes $160 million series C funding

    Divergent Technologies, the company that has developed the world’s first end-to-end digital production system to revolutionize industrial-scale manufacturing, completed its Series C funding totaling $160 million. The new financing round will enable the company to industrialize its fully-integrated platform, combining generative design, additive manufacturing, and automated assembly, expand operations, and…

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  • Honda reportedly had 3D models removed from Printables marketplace

    According to a story first published by TheDrive, “all models referencing the word Honda posted prior to March 30, 2022, were seemingly removed from Printables without warning. These included speaker brackets, key housings, hood latches, shifter bushings, washer fluid caps, roof latch handles, and my trunk lid handle—a part not…

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  • MX3D M1 Metal AM System to be used for automotive parts

    An M1 Metal AM System from Dutch company MX3D has been installed at the Additive Manufacturing Campus of BMW Group in Munich, Germany. With the M1 Metal AM System, BMW Group has acquired one of the most advanced setup the market has to offer with respect to Robotic Wire Arc Additive…

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  • SPEE3D shows WarpSPEE3D metal 3D printer at Melbourne Grand Prix

    Australian additive manufacturing company, SPEE3D, showcased their world-leading metal 3D printing technology at the Melbourne Grand Prix. The company’s flagship product, the WarpSPEE3D, is the world’s fastest metal 3D printer and can produce parts up to 1000 times faster than traditional methods. This makes it the perfect solution for on-demand…

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  • Czinger 21C 3D printed cars will be sold by H.R. Owen in the UK

    Czinger Vehicles is expanding its global reach, with H.R. Owen as its first international retail partner and exclusive Czinger dealer in the U.K. The alignment opens up the European market to the Los Angeles-based automotive brand as sales begin for its first production car, the pathbreaking 21C, a marvel of…

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  • Scudera Ferrari’s 3D printed cylinder block* drove F175 performance

    We have been arguing on these pages that the incredible dominance of Mercedes in Formula 1 for the past decade was due in part to the team’s ability to heavily implement AM for both development and optimized parts (and we’ve had sources confirm this). We’ve also argued that Scuderia Ferrari’s…

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  • Stellantis gets cracking on AM with PEUGEOT 308 printed accessories

    The Stellantis group has been eyeing 3D printing for some time, especially through the activities of its French PSA (which includes PEUGEOT and Citroën) component. PSA has made deals with Divergent 3D and introduced experimental printed parts – even metal ones, – for Citroën cars. The Italian-Amerian side of the…

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  • REFORM relies on AM and the 3D solution provider Prirevo

    REFORM, the vehicle specialist, develops and manufactures special vehicles for year-round use in mountain agriculture and municipal areas. For flexible and innovative product development, the company relies on additive manufacturing and the Upper Austrian 3D specialist Prirevo. The development of modern, versatile, and economical special vehicles that can withstand continuous…

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