Traditional car parts are fabricated in machine shops and factories. Automakers employ hundreds of employees to create parts for your cars, trucks, and SUVs. In future years, we could see this change. Car parts could come from a 3D printer.
Right now, car makers use 3D printers to print prototypes of their vehicles, but this technology could be revving up to become a primary maker of auto parts, a report published by MEMA, USA’s leading aftermarket association, states.
Automotive use of 3D printing is estimated to generate USD1.1 billion dollars by the year 2019 for the automotive industry, the report says. 3D printing is used heavily in prototype vehicles as well as prototype parts to make sure that the parts will fit in the vehicle as expected. They use it for test models, and have even used it in the creation of functional auto parts used in test vehicle engines.
Today, leading automotive makers use 3D printing to create a variety of tools, fixtures and jigs in the automotive manufacturing process. Now the challenge is to prove that 3D printing is not only functional, but economical.
Ford is offering "mini" 3D printed vehicles as well as downloadable digital files that consumers can print. Expectations are that the industry can build cars using fewer parts which will eliminate the need for some tools.
3D printing is envisaged to grow in popularity as the price of ownership comes down, the report says. "This isn’t a problem for automakers who have the cash flow to purchase the printers, but some of these printers will have to adapt to the automakers’ needs if they are to see a permanent spot in the manufacturing process. They will also need to find a way to incorporate the workable parts into the existing vehicles. For consumers, 3D printing your auto parts could be a time saving way to get the parts you need for vehicle repairs."