The automotive industry has changed in almost every way since its beginnings in the 1800s, with rapid advances in everything from design and production to the parts and materials used. Today, the latest innovations in the automotive industry are driven by 3D printing, so much so that the market is expected to reach $1.56 billion by 2020. The availability of new materials like nylon, Ultem, and carbon fiber have given manufacturers more options when it when to comes to automotive applications, and continued improvements to 3D printing technology have reduced costs across the board.
Unfortunately, we’ve noticed some automotive manufacturers are deterred from 3D printing because they’re overwhelmed by the number of solutions available or have become frustrated by low-end systems that don’t deliver the performance they expect. While we would advise anyone new to 3D printing to start small with a proven entry-level system, the Stratasys J750 is an excellent 3D printer for automotive applications and currently used by companies like Audi, BMW, and Jaguar Land Rover. Here’s what you can expect.
Rapid Prototyping for the Whole Vehicle
Rapid prototyping is an important part of the automotive industry, but traditional, multi-step processes don’t always meet the demands of complex, multi-material parts and custom features. Car interiors typically require five prototype iterations, months of lead time, and multiple materials; similarly, car exteriors are a multi-step process requiring multiple colors and textures. 3D printing with the J750 simplifies this process by creating a part with multiple colors, textures, and materials in just one run, while also eliminating the need for finishing steps like painting. This faster prototyping process means manufacturers can move through designs and get to market quickly.
The Stratasys J750 is particularly well-suited to automotive prototyping due to its high output and extended-life print heads. According to a PolyJet white paper, Jaguar Land Rover has used the J750 to print over-molding and a complete fascia air vent, while design company Italdesign has cut project times by as much as 50%.
Wide Range of 3D Printing Materials
The prototypes that are being created aren’t just faster — they’re also more realistic. The J750 enables users to print with a wide range of 3D printing materials such as Agilus 30 (a flexible rubber-like material) and Digital ABS Plus (a tough and rigid material with high-temperature resistance). The qualities of these materials give an added layer of realism to prototypes like gaskets, door seals, and manufacturing aids and seals. The ability to work with prototypes that feel and function like a final product helps designers catch errors that can be costly down the road while saving time by eliminating the need for part assembly and finishing processes.
Vivid Color Options
Of course, it’s not enough to create the feel and function of a final product. The J750 also allows manufacturers to create prototypes that look like the end result.
Unlike previous printers, the J750 has over 500,000 color combinations, including new vivid color materials, and a wide range of texture options that include stitching, wood, and leather. Audi took advantage of these capabilities to take their tail light cover prototyping from a multi-step process to a one-print job. In a press release, Dr. Tim Spiering, Head of the Audi Plastics 3D Printing Center, said the printer offers a “significant advantage” because it can print transparent parts in the textures and colors their design requires, with an estimated 50% time savings.
Staying Ahead of the Curve
If you’re looking to stay ahead of the curve (or even keep up with competitors) when it comes to automotive prototyping, the time to invest in 3D printing is now. The Stratasys J750 is a tried-and-true solution that should be seriously considered by manufacturers committed to design and a quick time to market. If you have questions about the J750 or 3D printing for the automotive industry, please contact one of our 3D printing experts.
About the Author
Lisa Hannon is a marketing manager at Fisher Unitech. She develops content for 3D printing topics that have an impact across all industries that are researching ways to maximize getting products to market faster as well as cost savings with 3D printing solutions. Lisa has worked as a marketing management professional since 1998, most recently with Stratasys. You can follow her on Twitter: @lmci37.