The future of car parts

Source: Audi
May 02 2017

The future of car parts

The connected, self-driving, electric car has been certainly all the taking point.

Today let’s look a the future of spare parts.

Imagine a world of instant spare car parts availability?  No more shipping vehicle parts across the globe from Europe. Car manufacturers will be able to send a digital blueprint of a car component to a specialised 3D printer, who will print it on speciality materials.

Jay Leno has been doing it for years! Audi is also already doing it! And so is Daimler! They are testing and soon launching it from parts including clamps, mountings, control elements, air and cable ducts and spring caps.

Ford is also testing this technology. Peugeot and Citroen have formed partnerships with Divergent 3D and engineering firm Altran. Vader Systems has developed a metal printing system and other companies using 3D printing technology for custom tooling are venturing into custom automotive parts.

Yes, 3D car components printing will be a thing! It will be a huge disruptor to the automotive spare parts market and supply chain in the future!

Automotive components have been made in pretty much the same way for a long time, by stamping out metal parts by huge presses, which require a huge investment. This makes changes to those machines hugely expensive.

At the moment making small quantities of automotive components is very expensive and not very efficient. New 3D printing technology currently allows manufacturers to test out new designs. It also caters for automotive enthusiasts it customised and personalised parts.

Spare parts account for the bulk of profits of OEMs’ services business. However in the not too distant future businesses may be able to print and fabricate most of the parts with a speciality 3D printer nearby. How this will change the OEM’s business models to sustain those revenues and profitability remains to be seen.

Divergent 3D CEO explains, that their “3D technology uses direct-metal laser sintering. Layers of aluminum alloy powder are built up to create the necessary parts or to build molds for non-metallic components. And because complex shapes can be created easily, parts that until now have been made of several pieces that have to be welded together can be created as single pieces.

Right now, Divergent 3D and its partners are working on structural parts and suspension components, but over time “large complex structures like cylinder heads and engine blocks will be 3D printed,” Czinger told us. The goal is to cut the number of parts per vehicle by three-quarters and to reduce the weight of a vehicle’s “body-in-white” by half. And as we all know, the lighter your vehicle, the more fuel efficient it is. According to Czinger, his parts are 10-15 percent lighter than T6 aluminum, but with the same stiffness.”*

Rob Vatter, CEO of Altran North America a R&D company in that space, said the following: “The dramatic transformation the auto industry is facing must take into consideration not only how to leverage disruptive innovation, but also how to reduce the capital required to bring connected and intelligent vehicles to market.”

Reuters also writes that “Without having to manufacture tools for each part, the 3D printing process can secure supply even for model series which are no longer produced, or for parts which are produced only in very low quantities every year.”

At this stage they are testing and developing but most these companies are expecting to supply the commercial automotive industry within 3-4 years.

What an interesting development! What do you think?



A 3D printed metal structural node.













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