3D Printing; Gearing Up for the Future of Automotive Manufacturing

January 2019

Following on from our blog about Automotive Trends for 2019, one big change set to affect the automotive industry in 2019 is the increased adoption of 3D printing in automotive manufacturing. Although many of the big car manufacturers have been using 3D printing to create automotive parts for several years, the use of this technology in additive manufacturing is predicted to grow in 2019, and might even be the year of the world’s first 3D printed car.
How is 3D printing used in car manufacturing?
Many of the large car manufacturers, such as Audi, have been using 3D printing to manufacture parts for several years and in 2017, launched a 3D printing centre in Ingolstadt. Audi is currently working with metal additive manufacturing specialist SLM Solutions Group AG to create prototypes and spare parts.

While the use of additive manufacturing has slowly been on the rise, the big change anticipated to shake up the industry in 2019 is the introduction of the world’s first 3D printed car. Created by Italian car manufacturer X Electrical Vehicle (XEV) and developed with Chinese 3D printing material company, Polymaker, only a few elements of the LSEV are created using conventional production methods.
The benefits of 3D printing
There are many additional benefits to 3D manufacturing that make it an increasingly appealing prospect for automotive manufacturers.

The obvious ones include reduced lead times and lower production costs, which is especially useful for manufacturing spare parts for cars. Usually, it’s more costly to produce spare parts because this is done outside of the main production run and requires specialist tools to create smaller quantities.

Additive manufacturing would allow for greater freedom in creating new designs, and this customisation could be offered to consumers to give them more control over the features of their cars. With customisation becoming increasingly more popular amongst consumers, it could potentially be a profitable move for manufacturers. In February 2018, California-based startup, Hackrod, launched a crowdfunding campaign to develop a platform to allow customers to design their own cars. It was successful, suggesting that there is a market for personalised 3D cars.

3D printing could also potentially create more fuel-efficient cars. In 2017, the University of Nottingham’s Lattices for Automotive Components (FLAC) project was awarded a research grant to investigate whether using metal lattice structures can reduce the weight of components, which would mean they require less fuel to run, making them more environmentally friendly and saving consumers money.

Using 3D printing to build cars can reduce the amounts of waste material, making manufacturing more cost-effective - a factor expected to encourage more companies to explore 3D manufacturing in the future.
What effect will 3D printing have on automotive insurance
As vehicles that contain 3D printed parts become more common, new factors have to be taken into consideration when calculating automotive insurance premiums. 3D printing is expected to increase risk opportunities, at least initially while the technology is still relatively new.

3D printing brings a host of different considerations for the automotive industry, including the possibility that consumers will have new opportunities to self-customise their vehicles. As 3D printer ownership increased, the public could potentially ‘DIY’ print repair parts which is likely to increase the number of ‘unofficial’ car parts being sold on the market.

As with anything that increasingly relies on new technology, the risk of cyber hacking, potential system failures and software problems also increases as 3D printing is used more often in automotive manufacturing. These new risks need to be taken into consideration by automotive insurers when it comes to negotiating premiums for insurance for vehicles with 3D components.
  1. https://3dprintingindustry.com/news/3d-printing-automotive-industry-3-132584/
  2. https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/motor-shows-beijing-motor-show/world%E2%80%99s-first-3d-printed-car-due-roads-2019
  3. https://www.industryweek.com/additive/what-you-need-know-about-3-d-printing-and-insurance
  4. http://www.warnerandcompany.com/aboutus/blog/3d-printing-and-insurance.html