Report – How Real is Additive Manufacturing?

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eos-logo-3d-printing-amIt’s not unanimous about how 3D printing/rapid prototyping/additive manufacturing is revolutionizing manufacturing, including automotive manufacturing. But the question is: how much of this is hype driven by those who are tech fanboys or those who happen to have a decided interest (i.e., they happen to be producing the equipment and/or the associated materials for the process). It means there is a lot of heat but not a whole lot of light, which is somewhat odd, given that generally the process (actually processes, as there are a variety of methods used to create parts straight from post-processed CAD files) uses a laser, speaking of light.

We get some straight talk about additive from Jon Walker of EOS of North America.

EOS

You can see the various textures that can be achieved on this plastic part produced with additive processes.

The company has been in the additive space since 1989, established in Munich. Given its locale, it doesn’t take too great a stretch of the imagination to realize that the company has done and continues to serve the automotive market.

It provides machines that perform laser sintering for a variety of metals—aluminum, steel, titanium, and nickel and cobalt chrome alloys—as well as plastics—polyamides, polystyrenes, thermoplastic elastomers, and polyaryletherketones. Watch the video about Laser Sintering.

Walker states that the equipment continues to get more robust and capable, which is allowing it to move into existing or new applications.

The MINI Yours Customized program, where customers can order tailored things like personalized side scuttle inlays, for example. The order is placed digitally and the specific product is produced in a facility in Germany, then boxed and shipped to the MINI owner.

MINI1

Create your customized MINI parts digitally. . .

MINI2

You will receive customized MINI parts boxed and ready to be installed on your car.

Some time ago, General Motors announced that it was working with 3D printing to determine whether it would be possible to produce a seat bracket that had fewer parts than the existing assembly as well as have physical characteristics that were better than the existing.

GE printed a part that is a single component that is 40 percent lighter and 20 percent stronger than the original.

GM Innovation Space - Warren Tech Center

On the left that black weldment is an existing seat bracket. On the right is a component that serves the same function but is 40 percent lighter and 20 percent stronger.

Walker admits that the process itself takes longer than traditional approaches, but he points out that if you consider all of the time that is required to make a traditional assembly—everything from making the tooling needed for stamping the components to welding them together—then the time becomes not as great a factor. What’s more, the part made with additive has a configuration that would otherwise be nearly impossible to make with other processes.

Walker suggests that as more electric vehicles are developed, vehicles where weight is a paramount consideration, then additive is an important enabler. Another application that is allowing manufacturers to produce parts that are otherwise difficult to achieve is producing conformal cooling inserts for molding tools. Walker states there are a number of companies manufacturing parts right now that take advantage of the capabilities provided by the metal inserts made with EOS equipment.

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Article and featured image:

Automotive Design Product Gary S. Vasilash How Real Is Additive Manufacturing? published on May 21st, 2018 https://www.adandp.media/blog/post/how-real-is-additive-manufacturing visited on May 21st, 2018;

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