3D printing technology plays a very important role in the automotive industry. It can greatly shorten the automotive development cycle, while also saving the cost of automotive production and getting rid of the traditional automotive manufacturing’s dependence on molds. These advantages make the application of 3D printing technology in the automobile manufacturing industry more and more extensive.
The application of 3D printing in the development process of auto parts
The research and development of auto parts often requires long-term verification work. The traditional process is to design the parts first, then develop and produce the mold, and then manufacture the parts of the parts and test the parts to determine whether the product design requirements can be met. If the requirements are not met, the design or mold needs to be revised. . This process is time-consuming and costly. Applying 3D printing technology to the research and development process of auto parts can quickly verify the working principle and feasibility of complex parts, which not only saves the process of mold development, but also reduces time and capital investment. The research and development cycle of traditional auto parts is usually more than 45 days, while 3D printing can complete the development and verification process of parts in 1-7 days, which can greatly improve the research and development efficiency of new products. Moreover, no mold is required in the process of developing parts by 3D printing, which can save a lot of costs. The traditional part development process and the 3D printing part development process are shown in the figure.
Application of 3D printing in auto parts manufacturing
As people’s demands for lightweight, personalized, and intelligent automobiles continue to increase, more and more special designs appear in auto parts. These special designs have higher requirements on the manufacturing process. Due to the limitations of traditional manufacturing processes, these special designs are more difficult to form. The emergence of 3D printing technology can effectively solve these problems.
The application of 3D printing technology in the manufacture of auto parts mainly includes:
(1) The manufacture of parts with complex structure. When the traditional process manufactures complex parts, it needs to be processed in blocks and then assembled, and its dimensional accuracy and strength will be affected to a certain extent, and Due to the complex structure of parts and components, more manufacturing processes are required, which leads to an increase in cost and processing cycle. 3D printing can not be restricted by the structure of parts and components, and can quickly manufacture complex auto parts.
(2) For multi-material composite parts, one of the outstanding advantages of 3D printing technology is that it can be integrated with multi-material and multi-color to achieve different requirements for material performance and color in different parts of parts. For example, Audi adopts Stratasys J750 full-color multi-material 3D The printer prints out a completely transparent multi-color taillight lampshade, thus avoiding the previous complicated processing procedures. With more than 500,000 color combinations, the Audi team can print parts with multiple colors and materials, which can speed up the design verification process and is expected to save at least 50% of the time, as shown in Figure 2.
(3) Lightweight structural parts, 3D printing can optimize the structure of the parts according to the computer simulation results. For example, the hollow structure can be used to realize the lightweight of the car while ensuring the performance requirements.
For customized parts, Bugatti adopts 3D printing technology to prepare titanium alloy brake calipers, which are not only cool in appearance, but also durable. The entire process takes 45 hours.
(4) For small batch parts, Daimler uses 3D printing technology to provide 3D printing spare parts for classic models. This technology can realize small batch production of parts. Due to the small batch size, the initial investment cost and the cost of scrap parts will not be large. , The latest 3D printed parts include sunroof sliding wheels, car rearview mirror base, spark plug support.
(5) Emergency parts. When the vehicle cannot find spare parts in time due to special circumstances (such as in battlefields, deserted fields, space, etc.), using 3D printing technology to manufacture parts in real time can effectively solve such problems.
Application of 3D printing in auto parts mold
The increasingly fierce competition in the automotive industry requires the rapid upgrading of auto parts. However, due to the months-long mold development cycle in the traditional parts preparation process and the high consumption of molds, it has hindered the renewal of automobiles to a certain extent. Speed of replacement. In recent years, 3D printing technology has begun to be used in auto parts molds in order to improve the complex operation, high cost, and time-consuming problems in the mold manufacturing process. The application of 3D printing technology in auto parts molds mainly includes: rapid prototyping of parts molds, integrated molding of complex parts molds, and optimized design and manufacturing of mold internal structures (such as conformal cooling runners). For example, Lei Kaiyun and others have used 3D printing technology to prepare the connecting rod of an automobile engine, which can be processed and formed in less than 5 hours. After testing, the mechanical properties of the connecting rod meet the requirements of connecting rod manufacturing. The use of 3D printing technology can not only shorten the development cycle of auto parts molds, but also manufacture precision molds with complex structures. For example, Cheng Zebang  uses 3D printing technology to manufacture automotive steering wheel molds with conformal cooling channels. The cooling effect is good, which can effectively reduce the deformation of the parts due to its own structure and improve the quality of the product.
Application of 3D printing in automotive materials
The emergence of 3D printing technology also provides a new idea for the development of new materials. It can achieve new functions of materials by controllable design of the microstructure of materials, which cannot be achieved by the previous material preparation processes. In recent years, many teams have applied 3D printing technology to the preparation of new materials in order to establish a new mechanism for composite materials through 3D printing technology. For example, BMW has cooperated with the MIT Self-Assembly Laboratory to develop an inflatable 3D printing material that can change its shape and hardness according to instructions. This technology can be applied to highly customizable and multifunctional In car interior, it can improve the comfort of the ride. Scientists at the University of Surrey collaborated with researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the University of California to develop a new type of 3D printing material with high stiffness and damping. Scientists said that although this new material is as hard as metal but is flexible enough to withstand strong vibrations, the automotive industry will usher in a new round of updates, so that customers will hardly experience any vibration during the journey, as shown in Figure 3. Shown. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Missouri University of Science and Technology have developed a 3D printed battery electrode, which has a 3D micro-lattice structure and can achieve controllable porosity, as shown in Figure 4. The researchers pointed out that the micro-lattice structure can greatly increase the capacity and charge-discharge rate of lithium-ion batteries. It can also use 3D printing equipment to make complex-shaped 3D battery structures, which can help optimize the configuration of electrochemical energy storage. For solid electrodes, the specific capacity is increased by 4 times and the actual capacity is increased by twice, which will greatly increase the range of new energy vehicles.
As the most important technological invention in the digital information age, 3D printing technology is bound to have a huge boost to the development of the automobile industry. This article analyzes the application of 3D printing technology in the research and development, manufacturing, molds and materials of auto parts, and fully understands that the application of 3D printing technology in auto parts has been very extensive. Compared with traditional industrial production 3D printing technology, it has The development cycle can be shortened, personalized manufacturing can be realized, new vehicle materials can be designed, and costs can be saved. We should seize the opportunity of the development of 3D printing technology and keep up with the pace of development of the times.