Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Volkswagen to Start 3D Printing Car Parts

By: Scott Huntington
The age of the 3D printer is upon us. No longer relegated to college lab classes, the automotive industry is confident enough in the durability of parts created with this new process that Volkswagen is already using it.
Even though the current list of parts made using 3D printing is short, the potential for the new technique is high. It is already being used to create gear shifters and small components used on interior trim and under the hood. So is 3D printing destined to replace conventional methods altogether? Will we one day soon be driving cars built entirely of 3D printed parts?
The Future is Three-Dimensional
Don’t expect to see an entire car come rolling out of a 3D printer anytime soon. Instead of replacing conventional methods, think of 3D printing as a solution for a set of problems we had no means to address before. It’s particularly useful for making small, intricate parts.
Parts fabricated using 3D printing have a few unique advantages over their conventionally made counterparts. For one, they’re lighter. The A-pillar window support Volkswagen makes using 3Dprinting weighs 74 percent less than the same part fabricated using additive manufacturing. That kind of weight reduction multiplied across all of the small pieces in a given model could result in a significantly lighter car. This fits right in with other lightweight features, like the panoramic sunroof option on the 2017 Golf.
The Worthersee GTI Concept Showcases 3D Tech
The ability to fine-tune the microstructure of 3D printed parts is what makes the technique so appealing — in metal applications like high-performance engine components, it can deliver impressive gains not possible with conventional manufacturing methods.
For the eye-catching Worthersee GTI, VW put its 3D printing capabilities on display. The concept car featured a high number of 3D printed interior parts, including the side and loudspeaker trims. All mounts, clips and cable ducts in the car also used the process, so it’s no coincidence that Volkswagen is now using the same techniques in their other models too.
What Can’t We Print?
Creating parts on a 3D printer isn’t cheap, so it’s only economical for pieces that are used many times over. Still, when you’re in the business of mass-producing cars, that shouldn’t be much of a problem.

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