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Sunday, November 04, 2018

Print! Print! 3D Print!!!

The Automotive Industry is in a state of flux. Significant swings in gas prices challenge the industry to balance between economics of gas guzzling SUVs and lightweight electric vehicles. Where ride sharing and public transport are steadily growing; leaps in technology have put autonomous vehicles on the road, changing the way we see our usage of cars. Automotive manufacturers must adapt to all that change, while also facing the age old challenge of minimizing production costs. One such methodology or should we say, technology is - 3D printing.

For better understanding, let us learn the basics of 3D Printing. Going by the definition, 3D Printing is the process of making a physical object from a 3D digital model, typically by laying down many thin layers of a material in succession. To put it in simple words, 3D Printing is a process of making real life models of your imagination of any object or a part.

Now let’s move onto the steps to create the part of your dreams! This typical love story starts with the designer realizing the needs of the product and giving it a virtual shape. After long sessions of corrections and improvisations, the final design is ready to leave the desktop and enter the world of 3 Dimensions. The design work is complete now, which marks the beginning of printer preparation. Followed by that, comes, layer by layer 2D printing which is all about patience as, based on the complexity of the object to be printed, the span of printing varies. Simply all that one has to do is wait and perform random checks to make sure everything is being done flawlessly.

Having the basics cleared about the working of 3D Printers, let us move on to some pros and cons. It offers you – Rapid Prototyping, Low material consumption and wastage which ultimately leads to low cost along with added flexibility in the operations of the whole manufacturing process. With these advantages, several OEMs are increasingly investing in and exploring the uses of additive manufacturing. Every technology comes with a few down points, which in this case can be – Inability to use it for mass production because of its slow processing speed, size restriction, and lack to available technology for manufacturing original parts in bulk.

What might a car look like when there’s no need to have the primary occupant facing front with their hands on a steering wheel? Throughout history that position has been a key, defining feature of a vehicle interior. Will future vehicle interiors serve different purposes, with a desk and chair, or a couch and TV? Or a bed to catch a few more minutes of sleep on the commute? The possibilities are endless, and we will see a lot of variety in the types of functions vehicle interiors begin to serve. More flexibility and more options, ultimately means mass customization over mass production of the same part again and again. And that is clearly a fit for additive manufacturing..!

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the author's and not necessarily represent or reflect the views of DoT Club as a whole.

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