3D Printing in Automotive Industry: Manufacturing Support

   By Sarah Smith on May 24, 2023

3D Printing in automotive industry has been quickly adopted for the use of printing manufacturing supports and end use production parts. The automotive industry thrives with highly efficient processes, due to the high volume and throughput required for success. This is why production grade 3D printing technologies and their high-end material selections are a valuable resource. Machines like the Stratasys SAF H350, the F900 and the Neo 800 can handle the daily demands with continued accuracy, while providing a variety of advanced materials to keep you in the lead.

The implementation of 3D printing has been instrumental in changing the way we view and think about manufacturing. In the past, Mechanical Engineers were trained to work within subtractive manufacturing methods to design and produce parts. That skilled expertise in traditional methods like CNC milling, molding, and metal forming was and still is instrumental in manufacturing, and therefore deeply ingrained in how we view and execute manufacturing parts today.

Today, additive manufacturing is turning manufacturing on its head. Opening a whole new realm of design and manufacturing possibilities, that traditional methods were not capable of creating. Cutting edge Engineers are learning about the design capabilities and benefits of additive manufacturing technologies. They are using these new technologies and materials to make significant improvements and advancements. Those at the forefront of the additive manufacturing learning curve are driving success with innovation.

Automotive Factory

There are many types of 3D printing options out there to explore, each with its own unique strengths. Finding the right combination of the correct 3D printing technology and pairing it in the right standard or engineering grade material is key. Our team of 3D printing hardware consultants can help to advise you on a printer that can meet your needs. Check out our 3D printer buyers guide to review the main technologies available.

We have already seen a major impact of 3D printing in automotive industry and aerospace industry. These constant advancements with 3D printing continue to push the bounds and are being incorporated into standard practices for many corporations.  While traditional manufacturing will always have a place in manufacturing, we will see a continued trend in the adoption of additive technologies, due to the benefits it provides. In the future, both traditional and modern manufacturing will work in tandem, providing the best of both worlds. In many cases 3D printing will support traditional methods to make them more efficient and cost effective. This will have a valuable lasting impact. Two applications to highlight this are 3D printed patterns for investment casting and 3D manufacturing support aids like jigs and fixtures.

3D Printing for Jigs and Fixtures

3D printed jigs and fixtures are 3D printed parts that can be used to secure, guide, and inspect materials during the manufacturing process. They are typically used in machining and fabrication, so you’ll often see them in industries such as automotive and manufacturing. 3D printed jigs and fixtures can be custom tailored to specific needs of your project, so they are able to reduce waste and increase efficiency. Another advantage is the ability to quickly produce them with a high level of accuracy and repeatability, which is especially helpful with precision requirements on challenging shaped parts.

Why are businesses implementing 3D printing for jigs and fixtures? They are an economical solution to combat the challenges of traditional manufacturing. 3D printing manufacturing aids like jigs and fixtures can help save money by reducing the amount of material used in the production process. In addition, they can be produced more quickly and accurately than traditional methods, reducing material and labor costs and improving workflow.

3D Printed Jig

Let’s look at the materials and applications of jigs and fixtures adopted in the automotive sector. ASA, ABS CF-10 and Nylon CF-10 are durable grade photopolymers that can withstand rigorous use. That makes them a good fit for tooling and jigs and fixtures.

  • ASA is a UV stable material that offers toughness to beat or match ABS-M30 and produces high quality prints. The UV stability lends itself to outdoor prototypes and custom end-use parts. To see the differences between ASA and ABS check out our article.
  • ABS-CF10 is an ABS based material with 10% chopped carbon fiber, making it 15% stronger and 50% stiffer than standard ABS. The material was designed to run on the Stratasys F123 and F123CR series printers, which can print two to seven times faster than the competitor’s composite printers. The material is really stiff, but it has complimentary soluble support option for easy cleanup of supports, which is a tremendous advantage over other carbon fiber options on the market that have material support.
  • Nylon CF10 is similar to ABS-CF10, but the base is comprised of Nylon and is 73% stiffer and 84% stronger. It also has a complimentary soluble support empowering users to print complex geometries accurately. It boasts good chemical resistance, surface finish, and accuracy which makes it a great fit for manufacturing jigs and fixtures.
  • ULTEM 9085 and ULTEM 1010 are high performance resin filament materials. ULTEM 9085 is flame retardant, with a high heat resistance, and good FST results. It has a high strength to weight ratio, which helps lightweight production manufacturing aids and end use parts, such as end of arm tooling.

3D Printing Investment Casting Patterns

The advent of 3D printing has made a profound impact for casting forgeries, reducing their costs and lead times. In fact, foundry feedback shows a 30-50% reduction in metal scrap rates. Investment casting is a process used to create many duplicate parts from one master pattern. Investment casting patterns are typically made from wax, also known as lost wax casting, but casting can also utilize plastics or other materials. The investment casting process involves taking a wax pattern and covering it in a ceramic material. When the wax is melted away it leaves the cavity of the shape behind to be used as a mold. The molds are often filled with heated molten liquid metals. The molten liquid is able to get into all the intricate parts of the mold achieving a smooth surface finish that only requires minimal machining. This manufacturing method is widely used in aerospace, automotive, medical, and industrial applications.

Stratasys Neo450 Somos Watershed Stereolithography

Stratasys Neo450 Somos Watershed Stereolithography

3D printing is a good alternative option to traditional patterns as it has good tolerances and, in some cases, when designed specifically for the application, such as Somos Watershed AF has excellent properties for the process. Emitting low residue after burning out of the mold. Somos Watershed AF resin material uses a proprietary photo initiator system that does not contain antimony, making the residual ash burn out very minimal and easy to clean. The resin has excellent green strength in the uncured form, which helps to retain the dimensional accuracy during the post processing of the patterns and a low moisture absorption of 0.31% to ensure no bloating during processing or changes due to humidity.  Once the parts are UV cured, they can be easily sanded and have good durability for handling and shipping.

In contrast to traditional methods, additive manufacturing makes creating customized parts tailored to each individual customer feasible. Along with producing parts with intricate details and complex shapes that cannot be produced in any other way. Check out our article to learn more about how to leverage industry 4.0 of additive manufacturing and to learn how to implement 3D printing hardware at your facility, reach out to our team who can assist with getting you the right technology for your application.

For a comprehensive overview of 3D printing in the automotive industry and further detail on material selections, download our guide.

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Sarah Smith

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