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Nikola Corporation installs large format 3D printer

EV truck pioneer uses AM for fixtures, test models and even some (undisclosed) final parts

EV truck manufacturers are emerging as leading innovators in manufacturing. After Quantron used VJET X technology to produce an engine housing, Nikola Corporation has now invested in a large-format FFF additive manufacturing system, the BigRep PRO, to streamline the design and manufacturing processes of their zero-emission battery-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles, electric vehicle drivetrains, vehicle components, energy storage systems, and hydrogen station infrastructure.

The new system is changing how Nikola Corporation implements additive manufacturing. Integrating AM into design and manufacturing processes opens the door for process improvements, product design optimization and modern operation efficiencies. AM is now able to play a key role in developing the future of freight transport, supported by engineering-grade materials – developed in collaboration with BASF.

“At Nikola Corporation, our vision is to become a global leader in zero-emissions transportation – and innovation plays a significant role in making that happen. We selected the BigRep PRO for its large-format build volume, third-party filament compatibility, and state-of-the-art Bosch-Rexroth CNC control systems,” said Technical Operations Manager of Nikola Corporation, Riley Gillman. “The first prints that we ran lasted 17 days. Since then, we have been pretty much running the PRO non-stop to help us print parts and components using its large capacity of printing, high resolution and accuracy throughout the entire process.”

Nikola relies on the BigRep PRO to 3D print assembly, weld, and Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM) inspection fixtures, which all require a high level of precision. In addition, the PRO is producing test components for fit checks on the company’s vehicles, and manufacturing some end-use parts.

“We are excited to be working with Nikola Corporation by providing both BigRep industrial 3D printing systems and our expertise in innovative applications,” says Frank Marangell, BigRep CBO and President of BigRep America. “The variety of applications Nikola is printing illustrates the PRO’s flexibility and high-performance potential in demanding industries like automotive. Nikola has joined a roster of other automotive industry leaders who benefit from our flagship system’s unprecedented speed, precision and reliability that make it the perfect choice for cutting-edge AM applications.”

The BigRep PRO is specially designed for 3D printing both large-format and low-yield production parts required in high-performance applications across the automotive, aerospace and other industries. The systems features a build envelope of almost one full cubic meter and is equipped with a state-of-the-art Bosch Rexroth CNC motion control system delivering IoT connectivity to fully integrate with Industry 4.0.

Two types of extruders are available: the Advanced Capability Extruder (ACE) and the BigRep MXT, based on a proprietary Metering Extruder Technology. A large, airtight filament chamber allows for continuous printing with engineering-grade filaments like PA6/66, ABS, ASA, fiber-filled and more. The PRO operates using BigRep’s BLADE slicer software, which provides accurate printing time and material use calculations for optimized productivity, as well as simple tools for easy batch and mirror printing.

Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based 3dpbm. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites 3D Printing Media Network and Replicatore, as well as 3D Printing Business Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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