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The world of automotive engineering is undergoing major disruption. There are vehicles powered with alternative and hybrid energy sources, like electric, hydrogen, and to a certain extent solar. Artificial Intelligence is driving some of these cars, the autonomous vehicles, and AI and high-tech electronics power a new generation of dashboards and vehicle sensors.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is also dramatically changing the way that automobiles are designed and manufactured. The technology is also expected to impact the options available to consumers for customization and design.
3D printing is a technology that first began in 1984, but it hasn’t been until the last five years that its use has become widespread in manufacturing and numerous other applications, even being used for healthcare applications like printing blood vessels.
All automakers are at least investigating the capabilities of 3D printing. Ford, for example, in the US is planning to make a huge shift towards the use of 3D printing. They believe that the technology can help them more efficiently build cars, saving on the amount of raw materials needed and also reducing the vehicle weight.
John Kawola, president of Ultimaker, said that “it’s a problem of scale. You still need a really large 3D printer to print a bumper. With the exponential rate technology is progressing, however, that projection is not inconceivable, and may even end up being affordable faster than one would expect.”
Adam Clark, CEO at Tangible Solutions, said that “the last year or two there has been a major focus on new materials and the process cars can be printed with. Everyone is realizing that a lot of the materials today can be optimized and perform much better.”