What additive manufacturing technology to use for each automotive application?

In which areas does additive manufacturing offer the greatest benefits to the automotive sector?

Today, the automotive industry uses additive manufacturing in all its development and production phases.

In the innovation phase, where proofs of concept or mock-ups are needed to validate new designs, photopolymer technologies are used to create models true to the ideas conceived.

Already in development, where these ideas must be tested and their feasibility studied both at a structural level and the ability to be produced, new product engineering requires the use of prototypes. In this case, depending on the part to be studied, these prototypes will be made of metal or plastic and, therefore, will use metal additive manufacturing technologies or photopolymer technologies to produce plastic parts.

When we think about the production of the final part, there are two fields where additive manufacturing is useful:

  • Tooling (guides, fixings, inserts, mould, etc.)
  • Final part manufacturing

For the creation of tools, we tend to use photopolymer technologies for rapid tooling, but when we need tools with very demanding mechanical, thermal or chemical properties, we will use Fiber technology, that is, high-strength composites reinforced, in addition, with continuous fibers (usually continuous carbon fiber). Of course, sometimes there is no other material that works for us and we will need to make our tooling in H13 steel or similar, for which we will use SLM or BMD technology, depending on the size and requirements of the part.

For the final piece, there are two clear scenarios. If we work with short and medium series, we will manufacture parts with the highest material demands (calipers for Bugatti, for example), we will use technology SLM SLM. If, on the other hand, we need to mass produce parts, where productivity and part cost are critical, then we will use metal Binder Jetting technology.

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