AutomotiveMetal Additive Manufacturing

Desktop Metal 3D printers populate Ford’s factory of the future

Desktop Metal machines have allowed the automaker to rapidly iterate prototypes and small end-use parts

The overlap between the additive manufacturing world and the automotive industry is growing each year. At the forefront of their respective disciplines are Desktop Metal and the Ford Motor Company, whose recent partnership has improved creativity and productivity at the world-renowned carmaker.

Ford is an important investor in Massachusetts-based Desktop Metal, whose metal 3D printing systems offer an end-to-end production solution capable of delivering prototypes and achieving mass production.

Prototyping with BMD

Ford is one of the automotive industry’s greatest innovators, and Ford’s Research & Advanced Engineering organization is responsible for developing new technologies and finding partners that can help the company achieve its goals. Today, Ford is using a Desktop Metal Studio System to print prototypes and evaluate materials, driving the company into the future. Prototype components are proved out, then developed into end-use parts that go into Ford vehicles.

The Studio System 3D printer, the most compact of Desktop Metal’s metal AM solutions, extrudes bound metal rods, similar to how an FDM printer extrudes plastic filament. The system’s dedicated debinder then dissolves the primary binder, before its furnace sinters the printed part at temperatures up to 1400°C. The Studio System can fabricate metal parts safely—without lasers or loose powders—even in office environments.

Final parts production

In addition to prototyping with the Studio System, Ford’s Research & Advanced Engineering team uses Desktop Metal’s binder jetting Production System to create manufacturing aides and fixtures. On top of that, Ford has utilized the technology for limited-scale production: the company has created a printed part for the high-performance GT500 and a small printed safety component for a regional version of the F-150 Raptor. Ford says the use of binder jet AM has allowed it to print at higher speeds and on a larger scale.

Ford Factory of the Future Desktop Metal

Looking to the future, Ford sees AM solutions like Desktop Metal’s Studio System as integral to its vision of a “factory of the future,” where prototyping and rapid iteration can be carried out in the shortest possible time frame. Ford’s use of Desktop Metal technology can be seen in Desktop Metal’s new Customer Spotlight video.

Discover what bound metal 3D printing can do for your business →

 

Factory of the future

As the automotive industry incorporates AM into its production cycles on a wider scale, Desktop Metal solutions, including the Shop System and Production System, will play a vital role. While the Studio System is designed for prototyping and one-off part production—multiple machines can also be combined into a Studio System “Fleet”—the two larger systems are capable of handling production at a higher scale.

The Shop System enables batch production of customer-ready metal parts, while the Production System is Desktop Metal’s fastest solution, using Single Pass Jetting (SPJ) technology to operate 100x faster than quad-laser metal printers and over 4x faster than other binder jetting systems. SPJ leverages the power of powder spreaders and 16,384 nozzles to disperse metal powder and print in a single pass across the build area.

Bringing Desktop Metal solutions’ into your factory

Desktop Metal’s manufacturing systems are designed to facilitate the transition of metal AM from a technology capable of producing up to 200 high-performance parts to a serial production method capable of streamlining and digitalizing the serial production of several million parts.

In a webinar titled “Manufacturing the cars of tomorrow,” Desktop Metal CTO Jonah Myerberg showcases the benefits of using additive manufacturing for production applications. The webinar looks specifically at how major automakers, such as Ford, are now fully embracing AM. By leveraging Desktop Metal solutions, these examples can now be implemented into any production facility, in automotive and beyond, to produce all types of parts, from prototypes and tools to serial parts.

This article was published in collaboration with Desktop Metal.

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Benedict O'Neill

Benedict is a freelance writer with several years of experience in the additive manufacturing industry, having served as co-editor of a leading 3D printing news website. He also produces content for sports and culture platforms and holds a master’s degree in English literature.

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