People are getting more self-obsessed these days, and this could be good for automakers, especially Ford. While customized mugs, cards, cushions, phone covers, etc. are already trending, Ford may one day take customer satisfaction to a whole new level by offering customized car parts as well.
Ford aims to make cars more efficient
Ford is currently testing 3D printing technology for car parts, which could make customization really affordable. According to the automaker, such techniques offer several benefits, such as lower costs, efficiency and most important, testing prototype parts and components for vehicles made in small numbers.
For this reason, the company believes the technology could be a “breakthrough for vehicle manufacturing.” Huge costs are incurred in manufacturing a small batch of car parts with high levels of inefficiency. Hence, Ford has decided to use 3D printing. This will not only allow it to test new designs but also personalize parts for individual customers (something too expensive now).
Plastic body panel parts such as spoilers are currently made with the help of molds, which aren’t required in commercial 3D printing, making it the preferred choice. Automakers prefer not to build molds for a single or small batch since it requires a huge investment (unless customers are ready to compensate them for it).
Apart from being cheaper, 3D printing offers weight savings. A 3D-printed spoiler might weigh even less than half the weight of the equivalent made using a metal casing, notes TechCrunch. This could mean that a car with several 3D-printed external body parts will weigh significantly less and thus will be more fuel efficient.
Working similar to a regular 3D printer
Ford’s Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn, Michigan houses a massive Stratasys Infinite Build 3D printer. The company says that the machine can be used to manufacture most large, one-piece car parts. The working of the Infinite Build is very similar to that of other 3D printers, but it works on a larger scale.
A computer-aided design program uploads the designs to the machine, and they are then printed out one layer at a time. Ford uses large canisters that keep supplying plastic to the 3D printer, which turns them into parts, notes Digital Trends.
Other automakers are also trying their hand with this technology. In 2016, Daimler revealed plans to use 3D printing to make spare parts, while Peugeot partnered with Divergent 3D to design metal printing processes to facilitate vehicle production, according to CNBC.