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.

  • Sauber Technologies and Additive Industries extend partnership

    Sauber Technologies has extended its technology partnership with metal additive manufacturing leader, Additive Industries for a further three years. Sauber Technologies has been using Additive Industries’ MetalFAB platform for metal additive manufacturing (AM) since 2017, with a current count of four systems in-house as the company embarks on new, ambitious…

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  • Airtech 3D named as Brumos Racing Technical Partner. Aerodynamically enhancing the Porsche racecar using 3D printed composite mold tooling.

    Airtech 3D named as Brumos Racing Technical Partner

    Airtech Advanced Materials Group, a leading manufacturer of composite tooling solutions, has announced that it has been named a Brumos Racing Technical Partner. Airtech has teamed up with BBi Autosport to produce 3D printed molds and composite production parts for a newly updated Porsche GT2 RS Clubsport racecar, for the…

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  • General Motors prints 60,000 seals in five weeks using HP printers. Flexible "spoiler closeout seals" to fill the gap at the rear of the SUVs

    General Motors 3D prints 60,000 seals in five weeks using HP printers

    When General Motors was unable to produce a component needed for the delivery of the 2022 Chevrolet Tahoe, the company’s engineers turned to 3D printing, as many companies facing supply chain challenges are doing, increasingly. General Motors made a major investment in additive manufacturing technology in 2020, dedicating 15,000 square…

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  • Water charge air cooler (WCAC) launched by Conflux Technology. The additively manufactured WCAC is Conflux's first product.

    WCAC (water charge air cooler) launched by Conflux Technology

    Conflux Technology has used its extensive knowledge in additively manufactured heat exchangers to deliver its first product: a premium, scalable, configurable, ultra-high performing water charge air cooler (WCAC) that outperforms other leading WCACs, applicable to motorsport and high-end automotive markets. The Conflux WCAC is configured to specific customer requirements and…

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  • NASCAR names Stratasys as Competition Partner. All NASCAR Next Gen cars will feature the 3D printed production parts.

    NASCAR names Stratasys as Competition Partner

    Stratasys has been named a NASCAR Competition Partner and has teamed up with NASCAR to produce the first-ever 3D printed production parts to be featured across all NASCAR Next Gen cars. NASCAR has teamed up with Stratasys Direct Manufacturing to print a windshield air cockpit ventilation unit for the Next…

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  • Toyota Racing Development (TRD) names Stratasys as official partner. Expanding its use of AM from prototyping to end-use parts.

    Toyota Racing Development (TRD) names Stratasys as official partner

    Stratasys has been named an official partner of Toyota Racing Development (TRD). Through the partnership, TRD is expanding its use of AM, from prototyping to end-use parts. The partnership is set to make its debut with 3D printed production parts on the forthcoming Toyota GR86 for the GR Cup –…

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  • Scuderia Ferrari did again, now using 3D printing for sensor mounts

    After the story we reported on the team’s use of metal AM for the cylinder block, Scuderia Ferrari F1 has turned to 3D printing again, this time for polymer PBF 3D printed sensor mounts, fitted on the F1-75 during the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix Friday practice session. It should…

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  • BMW presents successful implementation of IDAM project

    The Industrialization and Digitization of Additive Manufacturing project (IDAM project) for automotive series processes has been successfully implemented. The project consortium, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), and led by the BMW Group, started three years ago with small and medium-sized companies, large companies, and research…

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  • 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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