Ford and Stratasys test large scale one-piece 3D printing

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Ford has become the first car manufacturer to use Stratasys’ Infinite Build 3D printer at its Research and Innovation Centre in Dearborn, to explore how large one-piece car parts could be printed for prototyping and future production vehicles.

Capable of printing car parts of practically any shape or length, Stratasys says it’s Infinite Build system could be a breakthrough for vehicle manufacturing, providing a more efficient and affordable way to produce tooling, prototype parts, or components at lower volumes, like personalised car parts or specialised parts for racecars.

3D printing could have immense benefits for automotive production, including the ability to produce lighter-weight parts, which will also help improve fuel efficiency.

Though 3D printing isn’t fast enough for high-volume production manufacturing yet, it is a more cost-efficient way to produce low volume parts. In addition, when not limited by the constraints of mass production processes, components can be designed to function more efficiently.

Using traditional methods, an engineer would create a computer model of the part and wait for months for prototype tooling to be produced. With 3D printing, Ford can print the same part in days at reduced cost.

“With the Infinite Build technology, we are now able to print large tools, fixtures, and components, making us more nimble in design iterations,” said Ellen Lee, Ford technical leader for additive manufacturing research. “We’re excited to have early access to Stratasys’ new technology in order to help steer the development of large scale printing for automotive applications and requirements.”