Cost and Time Savings of Using 3D Printing to Fabricate Automotive Components

Production build of automotive LED heatsinks
Production build of automotive LED heatsinks by Progressive Technology on an EOS M280.

When it comes to industrial 3D printing for automotive applications, London-based Betatype is building up considerable expertise. The 3D printing company was founded in 2012, and works with its customers to deliver functional, 3D printed components. Betatype built a data processing platform called Engine to help manage and control multi-scale design; the platform maximizes the ability of 3D printing to provide control in one process over material, shape, and structure.

Some of the benefits provided by 3D printing include high cost-per-part, productivity, and volume, especially when it comes to using metals. Betatype recently completed a case study that demonstrates how the advantages of metal 3D printing can be properly leveraged for applications in automotive parts production. It focuses on Betatype’s use of laser powder bed fusion (LPBF, also called Powder Bed Fusion, DMLS and SLM) 3D printing and optimization technology to, as the case study puts it, challenge “the current status quo” by producing 384 qualified metal parts in one build, which helped lower both lead time and cost per part.

“When it comes to automotive and other consumer-facing industries focused on producing high volumes of parts at low costs, the current generation of Additive Manufacturing (AM) processes is generally considered incapable of meeting these needs,” Betatype explained in its study.

“The key to making AM productive enough for wider adoption across these high-volume industries, however, lies in process economics – choosing the most effective manufacturing process for each part. Combining these principles with Betatype’s knowledge of the limits of additive – as well as how and when to push them – together with the company’s powerful optimization technology, supports customers with the design and production of parts that not only perform better but that are economically viable against existing mass production technologies.”

You’ll often hear people in the 3D printing industry saying that one of the benefits of the technology is its ability to offer greater design freedom than what you’d find in a more conventional manufacturing process. While this is true – 3D printing can be used to produce some pretty complex geometry – that doesn’t mean it’s without its own problems. It’s necessary to understand these constraints in order to find applications that can fit with the technology, and be used in high volume manufacturing as well.

Read more: Cost and Time Savings of Using 3D Printing to Fabricate Automotive Components

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