In the modern world, the electric vehicle has emerged as the motoring industry’s quick fix to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as the world struggles with climate change issues. The increasing focus on emissions reduction and the restriction on the introduction of new gas-powered vehicles are pressuring OEMs to incorporate cutting-edge technologies for more affordable EV-centric line-ups quickly. One of the most effective technologies for automotive OEMs to assist the production of electric vehicles and make automobiles stronger, lightweight, and better performing is additive manufacturing, also called 3D printing. Nowadays, leading automakers are incorporating 3D printing technology into their production processes to create high-quality automotive accessories and parts and gain a competitive edge in the auto industry.
How 3D Printing Boosts Electric Vehicle Production in the Auto Industry?
In this section, we’ll explore the advantages that 3D printing has for electric vehicle manufacturers and how the technology is currently being incorporated into the manufacturing of automobiles.
Speeding up the Product Design Phase
Prototyping is the first step in producing every new vehicle, but if done conventionally, it may be time-consuming and probably expensive. The 3D printing software has completely transformed the product development process by enabling OEMs to create a high-fidelity and accurate prototype of a physical part. The ability to generate full-scale parts that are incredibly accurate, smooth, and detailed using 3D printing allows the automotive industry to demonstrate new ideas and designs as well as test and validate their performance.
Innovative Design and Prototypes
Sophisticated, detailed designs that would be impossible to make using conventional manufacturing techniques can be seamlessly made with 3D printing. Design engineers can benefit from merging 3D printing with technologies like topology optimisation and generative design since weight reduction is an important goal for automotive OEMs, enabling lighter vehicles to have lower fuel consumption. These can be applied to make pieces with optimum weight and efficiency by removing material from certain locations. From a perspective, 3D printing technology also allows businesses to offer their clients a huge array of new products. Small businesses that prioritise “customisation” now have the chance to increase the quality of their work and boost creativity without worrying about the potentially expensive and time-consuming production procedure that goes along with customisation.
Auto Part Assembly Made Easier
Another way that 3D printing might help car OEMs is through part consolidation. A final component is often constructed from several intermediate components since traditional manufacturing processes do not offer the same design flexibility as 3D printing. Multiple components’ elements can be combined into a single component during the design phase because of part consolidation. Often, only 3D printing can be used to generate the consolidated design because of its complexity. Through this method, 3D printing can make assembly simpler by lowering the number of parts required during assembly. Reduced material use, assembly time, and cost are all benefits of eliminating the need for several parts.
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Various Material Choices with Better Thermal Characteristics
The wide variety of materials available for implementing 3D printing has grown dramatically over time and is still expanding because of the rapid improvements in additive manufacturing. Automotive manufacturers now have more possibilities for creating unique materials with precise mechanical characteristics, making it possible for them to move away from using metal to make polymer components. As a result, electric cars’ weight has been further decreased without lowering their durability, reliability, or safety. Since controlling the temperature of batteries can occasionally be challenging to maintain under ideal conditions, improved thermal capabilities of 3D printing could revolutionise the industry for electric vehicles.
Increased Manufacturing Speed and Faster time to Market Rate
Although OEMs pledged to increase EV development and manufacturing, the transition will take time. As EVs gain in popularity and adoption picks up speed, there will likely be significant transition phases within the automobile industry as well as among customers. The advantages of 3D printing over more conventional methods like injection moulding increase when demand declines. Less than 100,000 pieces are often the magic number for AM. Anything below that point is typically more cost-effective to produce using additive manufacturing, while anything above it makes sense to build using traditional methods. Additionally, the need for labour-intensive tools or mould modifications is avoided with additive manufacturing, saving time and money on production switchover. With industrial 3D printing, more than twenty iterations can be manufactured in the actual amount of time as one iteration in traditional manufacturing via an updated CAD file that is transferred to a computer and printed.
Boosted Production Rate of Electric Vehicles
With additive manufacturing, auto manufacturers can more effectively manage products from conception to end-of-life by connecting the physical production process with a digital thread. With digital manufacturing in place, production can be spread to any location by just submitting a file, providing a more efficient and environmentally friendly supply chain. When it comes to storing spare parts, OEMs can likewise do away with expensive warehousing and inventory by adopting digital twins that are printed on demand in their place. Another advantage is that it enables the same product to be 3D printed as a spare by using additively optimised files for traditional manufacture during high-demand times.
Simplified Manufacturing of Auto Parts
The ability to produce end parts with lower weight to create vehicles that consume less energy while enhancing or retaining their functionality is one of the biggest advantages of 3D printing in the automobile industry. By improving the weight distribution on the axles, lighter components of electric vehicles contribute to longer battery life. Engineers can easily design end parts since 3D printing has no restrictions on design flexibility. Through the consolidation of several parts into a single design, additive manufacturing also enables part simplicity and minimises or eliminates the requirement for part assembly. In comparison to outsourcing parts from an outside vendor, the optimised product designs made using 3D printing procedures perform better, decrease the lead time to a few hours, and lower costs. Additionally, 3D printing enables businesses to create more ergonomic tools, reducing the strain on assembly line workers.
Every auto manufacturer is distinct, and everyone will use additive manufacturing differently. To become “3D printing ready,” a firm must overcome a few typical challenges. It’s more complex than purchasing a printer and turning a switch to implement 3D printing because it involves a complete digital change. However, they do not try to build the newest or most revolutionary idea to incorporate it successfully. Consider current products or procedures that can be improved through AM and will provide the most benefit as a starting point. Therefore, now is the perfect time for OEMs to switch to AM in order to drive the development and uptake of EVs. The process is also simpler to incorporate than ever before, despite the complexity of the route.