3D printing an automotive future: How to design products that meet the requirements for mass production

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New Delhi | Updated: September 22, 2018 12:07:40 AM

The global automotive sector has benefited greatly from the rise of digital transformation across the industry.

3D printing an automotive future

The global automotive sector has benefited greatly from the rise of digital transformation across the industry. While there have been both internal and external changes made to the structure of vehicles, electrification has been an important innovation that has driven the sector forward. It is predicted that 55% of all new car sales and 33% of the global fleet will consist of electric vehicles (EVs) by 2040 (according to Bloomberg NEF 2018 EV Outlook). In India, a similar prediction has been made by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers which states that, by 2030, 100% public transport and 40% private vehicles can turn all electric.

As with every new invention, technology will play a major role in catalysing the EV journey in India, primarily industrial 3D printing or additive manufacturing. While these predictions show EVs have a smooth road ahead, there are still certain roadblocks that they must address.

Why aren’t EVs on the road yet?

The evolution of the EV industry is a result of the transformation that the manufacturing industry has experienced in recent years. However, this has resulted in two challenges in EV growth and adoption in the country: The need to build better designed, superior components, and a scalable model of component production that can allow EVs to be a feasible automotive option. Producing components is still an expensive process as they must not only be lightweight for energy efficiency, but must also be easy to mass produce to make EVs a viable option for most of the population.

Manufacturers today are grappling with the question of how to design products that meet the requirements for mass production, while maintaining high quality. The lack of infrastructure, in terms of charging and servicing, to support EVs on the road is another reason why most OEMs have been reluctant to adopt EVs, though component production is a more pressing issue.

Designing the future of EVs

To address these issues, companies have to find a way to design components in large numbers. With the help of digital tools, manufacturers can now visualise the components they must produce in a more complex and detailed manner than traditional manufacturing allowed. These components can then move from virtual to physical reality using additive manufacturing processes that use a variety of raw materials to create components using 3D printing techniques, layer by layer. Not only are these components lightweight and durable, they are also cost-effective, thereby making the production process feasible, much faster and more flexible. The plans for such components can even be sent across continents, making the manufacturing process a product of a global network. A clear example of the advantage 3D printing brings to the market is the fact that this technology has allowed manufacturing lead times to be reduced significantly from their normal 3-5 year wait times. Due to this reduction in time, more EVs can find their way to being used on-road, helping a larger portion of the population take advantage of them over time.

As the automotive sector innovates, manufacturers too are constantly looking for avenues to aid in its evolution. From thermal management to battery optimisation, additive manufacturing represents the fuel that has the potential to power the next level of automotive evolution and make the dream of an automated future a reality.

By- Anand Prakasam. The author is country manager, EOS India, the industrial 3D printing company

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