Automotive Industry Supports Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing is a comparatively newer approach with tremendous benefits. Unlike machining and molding, 3D printing has come a too long way in a short duration of time. Now, huge companies such as Formula-1, Ford, and Porsche have announced the mainstreaming of additive manufacturing and decided to leverage it in their processes. For instance, electric vehicle (EV) sectors are using an additive approach for designing invertors to add to the efficiency of the overall process. Meanwhile, across Europe, many companies like Alfa Romeo Racing, Ford, Audi, and ORLEN have significantly increased their 3D printing operations.

Printing of First Complete Electric Drive Housing by Porsche.

Recently, Porsche has successfully streamlined the first electric drive housing unit using 3D printing. The prototypes of different components, such as the gearbox and engine, successfully passed the quality and stress test without causing any problem. Typically, the parts prepared using the additive manufacturing process were lighter in weight and doubled stress-bearing capacity. These lines demonstrate that additive manufacturing is equally appropriate for large-sized and exceptionally stressed components in electric sports vehicles.

Another significant benefit of additive manufacturing is that it helps in accommodating multi-part assemblies in a single piece while reducing the need for extra assembly work. Thus, having manufactured the first complete electric drive housing, Porsche claims the whole process is precious and time and energy saving. Moreover, Porsche is now determined to enter and test additive manufacturing for complex parts such as pistons for its 911 GT2 RS.

Engine Block Molds of Additive Manufacturing by Formula-1.

Formula-1 is also searching out new ways to manufacture automotive parts using additive manufacturing. However, unlike Porsche, the international auto racing organization, Formula-1, uses 3D-printed molds for manufacturing engines.

The designers at Formula-1 drafted an engine block mold design, which uses an additive manufacturing process to reach its definite shape using hardeners and sand. After that, the molten material is added into the printed mold that creates engine blocks with greater precision than conventional tooled molds. This approach enables engineers and manufacturing experts to carry out experiments with different kinds of glues, sand, and hardeners to control the cooling of aluminum in the mold and check its impact on the final condition of the product.

Recycled 3D Printing Waste Used by Ford in F-250.

Recently, HP and Ford have entered a partnership. They are determined to use recycled 3D-printed materials into the injection-molded fuel line clips aimed at Ford’s super-duty truck, F-250. The sustainability report presented by the experts over the use of recycled 3D-printed molds claims that the move offers 10% cheaper and 7% lighter parts compared with the conventionally molded parts. Remember here that conventional parts are made up of using fresh material.
Presumably, many companies are also discovering great uses for 3D printing advancements. Along with HP, Ford is quick to track down a highly valued application for waste powder. It is utilized to make durable and functional automotive parts.

Typically, the excess material required to manufacture these injection molded fuel line clips comes from the HP multi-jet fusion printers. Simultaneously, this material is used by Ford’s Advanced Manufacturing Center to produce other parts. Once collected, the powder material is sent to be converted into polymer pellets appropriate for the injection molding process.

Apart from that, Ford and HP have found around ten more fuel line clips on different vehicles to expand their initiative. They might be used for the recycled material molding process.

Additive Manufacturing Adds Efficiency to EV Production.

In the UK, an Institute for Advanced Automotive Propulsion System (IAAPS) has been established at the University of Bath. It explored that the utilization of 3D printing can inflict positive impacts on the production of electric vehicle inverters. A dedicated team is working on the project to ascertain the possibility of 3D printing select inverter components. If their efforts are fruitful, the additively manufactured parts will help EV makers overcome different constraints. These constraints might include electrical noise, thermal management, and packaging volume.

Regarding the performance of the inverter, Silicon Carbide (Semiconductor) devices can be massively beneficial to improve their performance. But experts are always less successful in having the full benefit of this material as they do not know how to materialize their thoughts using conventional techniques. This problem is readily solved with additive manufacturing since it is free from these constraints and helps design three dimensions. That is why the method of additive manufacturing is massively helping in the improvement of electric vehicle inverters.

Presently, inverters are designed in two dimensions. Flat components are attached with a substantial aluminum liquid-cooled cold plate at the bottom. But with this arrangement, the efficiency, performance, and reliability of the inverters become down when the temperature increases. However, the experts believe that additive manufacturing might solve this problem. It allows the complex lattice internal structure to settle with walls under 1mm thick inside the cooling plates. The system overall remains cool even when the temperature rises during the process. Consequently, this efficient cooling solution offered by additive manufacturing has never been the option with conventionally made cooling channels.

One more significant benefit of 3D-printed design for the inverter is its low weight with greater current carrying capacity, making it more power-dense. The compact assembly of the inverter, which is achievable with additive manufacturing, offers less distance between the gate drivers and switches. Without a doubt, it leads to an even better and effective electromagnetic interface. In short, it allows the switches of inverters to work at a faster speed while bearing the full advantage out of the Silicon Carbide (SiC) technology over different traditional solutions.

Conclusion

Having described the above details, it has become a fact that additive manufacturing is under the spotlight now, and it is to be picked up as another leading manufacturing process. By now, Alfa Romeo ORLEN, Formula-1, Ford, and Porsche have shown their confidence in additive manufacturing, and for sure, there is a lot more to come in the coming days. Likewise, with advantages such as reduced weight, more comprehensive parts, and more intricacy, the move to additive manufacturing for automotive shows no indications of easing back down.