Ford's Large-Scale 3D Printing Could Offer Personalized Car Parts
The technology works best for low-volume racing and prototype parts right now, but could be a straight-from-the-factory customization option in the future.
Ford Motor Company, working with a massive, room-sized 3D printer from Stratasys, is experimenting with large-scale printed plastic parts that are lighter than their cast-metal counterparts. The Infinite Build printer, which is housed at the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn, Michigan, can create almost any automotive part and almost any size or shape, could also provide "a more efficient, affordable way to create tooling, prototype parts and components for low-volume vehicles such as Ford Performance products, as well as personalized car parts."
Technology Best for Toooling, Prototype, Low-Volume, Racing Parts
Obviously, the new technology would provide a fast and simple way to make tooling, fixtures, and prototype components, and to model a new part before production—but Ford says its exploring the technology for actual production parts, as well, noting "the ability to produce lighter-weight parts that could lead to greater fuel efficiency" and pointing out that a component like a spoiler "may weight less than half its cast metal counterpart."
The printing process is still too slow for volume production, according to Ford, but is cost-effective for lower-volume Ford Performance and racing parts—and could make available down the road the ability to order a personalized part straight from the factory.