As additive manufacturing grows in its capabilities, there are many industries that benefit through the research, development and hard work of the pioneers in the field. Notably, Stratasys has spent an unrivaled amount of time working with end users to develop streamlined solutions that focus on efficiency of time and cost savings.
What Industries Can Use Additive?
But most importantly Stratasys has developed inventive workflows that output viable products and solutions for the users to deploy in their industries as specific answers to inefficiencies they have struggled with over the course of the traditional manufacturing lifespan. Medical, aerospace, and consumer products are some of those that have benefited greatly from these advances. However, the automotive industry may have the biggest to gain due to the necessity to iterate and blend high performance engineering and stylism – both being a driving factor in a car manufacturers success with the market.
Traditional Prototyping: Automotive Lenses
One of the most prominent features on a car are the lenses. There are two important design elements that a lens will need to satisfy: shape and color. How does the lens wrap to the contours of vehicle? Is it too bold of a statement or not bold enough? Does the color layout act as value-added or is it distracting and overthought?
Historically, lens development has been a long, arduous and expensive endeavor. Although, lenses can be milled from acrylic, usually the substrate is of a singular color and the machine time (depending on whether you’re sourcing the production or competing internally with concurrent projects) can give you an unfavorable turnaround time just for form evaluation.
Now imagine the need to move to injection molding for evaluating both the form and color of a lens. This will bring a monetary cost and cost of time, that will leave most companies sitting with their fingers and hoping that they got it right the first time. With all this said, automotive companies have dialed in these processes to be as efficient and successful as possible, however they should not have to anymore.
The 3D Printing Solution: Automotive Lenses
The Stratasys J850 printer gives you the opportunity to print the geometry of lenses including the desired color formatting with less than a few hours “prep.” Once that file “prep” is integrated into your CAD development, consumption of time can be brought down even further, and then printing your parts is as easy as a drag and drop into the machine, then press “print.”
Let’s now imagine the amount of time and cost saved when printing two or three separate iterations of a taillight at the same time. Within 24 hours you now have access to review three iterations and decide whether to proceed or reiterate. The difference in production of 6 separate designs in 48 hours gives you a lean budget and a confidence in moving to production that is rarely attained as expediently with traditional methods.
Research & Development with Additive Manufacturing
A particularly interesting case, where 3D printing was used in research and development, was when an aftermarket automotive company printed a translucent differential cover so they could observe how the inner geometry of the cover would affect the turbulence of the oil in the casing during acceleration and at sustained speeds. This allowed them to see which cover design provided the best movement/flow of the oil in order to reduce turbulences that cause inefficiencies in cooling. Stratasys’ VeroClear material is a fantastic option for the need to see within a closed environment such as a rear differential and analyze the results of your adjustments.
Another aspect to designing a high-performance vehicle is evaluating and optimizing to reduce drag. Although you can evaluate air flow in simulation packages of software, some designers choose to go the extra mile of evaluating in wind tunnels with 3D printed parts. By printing sections of the vehicle, even a base level material of ABS is sufficient to review the effects of the hood, door panels, spoiler and fender geometry will have on our drive.
Another avenue of revenue using 3D printing is aftermarket, startup and custom car build companies without the capital to invest in molds can print custom components for parts of the vehicle. Most often for these types of solution providers they are producing instrument panels, fender, bumper and spoiler kits. With a little post-processing and painting I have seen firsthand the quality of parts these machines can output in use.
Stratasys machines now provide a level of quality that allows engineers to quickly print mechanically driven components and evaluate their performance in a simulated environment. The most common of uses would be for fit check and basic function or interaction testing in materials that closely simulate an end-use material. Materials like Nylon, PC, or PC-ABS blend are common uses in this industry.
Stratasys FDM provides high end engineering materials that are capable of withstanding sustained temperatures of 400 degrees Fahrenheit and higher. This gives companies a strategic advantage of using quickly printed components and installing them in the engine bay for additional performance testing. In our experience at Purple Porcupine we have printed everything from manifolds, covers to complex ducting systems.
I know this installment has been focused on automotive, but I hope laying the advantages as they can and are used will help you understand how it can apply to your own projects and business ventures. If you’d like to know more, or start the process of 3D printing parts, you can reach out to our team by phone at 949.474.9222 or by email at [email protected].
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Meet Mike Stone
As a Sales Engineer for Purple Porcupine, our prototyping service bureau, Mike helps guide people through the process of bringing their ideas to life. He focuses on the customer’s objectives, while remaining within their timeline and budget. What Mike enjoys most about Purple is working with fun and intelligent colleagues and clients. If you haven’t had the chance to meet Mike yet, stop by the office or connect with him on LinkedIn.