3D printing or additive manufacturing (AM) is one of the most significant technologies that are emerged over the past decades. The technology-based on using CAD Software to design an object then produce it via a 3D printer that adds layers of a specific material then combine them together. The new innovative technology provided the industries with numerous advantages by reducing production expenses and time. So, it has many vital applications in food production, architecture, medical devices, education, and agriculture. The automotive industry also gets many benefits from this technology, and most huge manufacturers adopt it in their factories. The main advantages of adopting 3D technology in the automotive industry are quality improvement, cost-effectiveness, and risk reduction.
Advantage #1: Improving the Quality of Vehicles:
3D printing provides new innovative methods for improving product quality in the automotive industry. Broadly speaking, additive manufacturing technology uses less, easier, cheaper, and shorter industrial processer than the conventional methods of car manufacturing, which helps carmakers to enhance the design and quality of their products. Unlike traditional mass production, 3D printing depends on computer-aided design (CAD) software that offers rapid and unlimited prototyping and designing solutions, which helps in reaching the best edition of the product design quickly. Shahrubudin, Lee, and Ramlan (2019) argued that adopting 3D printing methods in the automotive industry allows the manufacturer to use many alternatives in the improvement phases to achieve the ideal design and reduces the consumption of materials. Accordingly, with 3D printing, carmakers can design models, modify, and then execute it without the need for the sophisticated traditional methods of mass-production. Further, the automated approach of this technology ensures getting the same quality in every single unit of a product without any human intervention.
Advantage #2: Using Polymers with Distinctive Features:
From another aspect, 3D printing relies on using engineering polymers with distinctive features, which also improves the final product quality. The cheapness, modifiability, durability, shock resistance, elasticity, and toughness of these polymers make it a perfect alternative in 3D printing industrial processes. Srivastava, Rathee, Maheshwari, and Kundra (2018) explained this point by saying that developed functionally graded materials (FGMs), can be widely used in manufacturing vehicle parts such as multiple engines, absorb shocks parts and braking systems in racing cars. Consequently, additive manufacturing has various revolutionary influences on the automotive industry because it helps carmakers to produce sophisticated designs with unique properties by exploiting the advantages of polymers and without the use of the expensive industrial processes such as molding, cutting, bending and welding.
Advantage #3: Being Cost Effective:
Another remarkable advantage of adopting 3D printing in the automotive industry is cost-efficiency. To clarify, 3D printing technology replaces the conventional sophisticated industrial processes which consume materials and energy, with quicker and simpler processes, which drastically reduces the manufacturing costs. Eschberger (2019) stated that General Motors (GM) could produce some tools at 3$ using 3d printing solutions, while it would cost 3000$ if the traditional methods of manufacturing were applied. In other words, additive manufacturing opens the way for producing car parts at a bare fraction of the cost, which is a very fundamental advantage for this price-sensitive industry. This cost reduction ability has essential benefits in terms of strengthening sales in developing countries, which always absorb new technologies slowly because of the high cost.
Advantage #4: Quality is Ensured:
Further, the high quality of the additive manufacturing output reduces the total costs. Initially, 3D printing depends on polymers that need less post-processing if compared to the counterparts used in traditional mass production. Jordan (2019) explained the distinctive features of 3D printing products by saying that it decreases scrap rates, tolerance, and overall weight and enhances strength, which reduces costs due to the better fit and improved output. Accordingly, the cost-efficiency of additive manufacturing increases its importance in the automotive industry because it gives the engineers the ability to develop and test new designs at relatively low cost; besides, it shortens the time of prototyping. Due to all these reasons, the automotive industry was one of the early industries that adopt additive manufacturing and apply it in its processes.
Advantage #5: Reducing Possible Risks:
This cost efficiency of 3D printing leads to a significant role in reducing risks. The cheap, rapid, and easy prototyping allow full testing of the product performance before delivering to partners, which helps in managing risks. Avinash, UdayKiran, and Srujita (2018) stated that the earlier problem resolution in additive manufacturing offers easy performance insights in the development phase, which helps in reducing risks. Thus, car manufacturers can easily test the quality and efficiency of the components before producing large quantities. Moreover, the fast designing and production phases allow them to make quick decisions against customers’ feedback, which also minimizes risks.
Advantage #6: A High Level of Customization:
Further, additive manufacturing is a very customizable technology since it allows manufacturers to target various categories of markets and consumers, which also reduces risks. To clarify, customization in conventional mass- production is a complicated process because it depends on metals cutting and welding. On the other hand, additive manufacturing depends upon quick and straightforward steps to customize or redesign a product, which makes the process easier. Anandan Kumar and Kumaraguru (2018) asserted that 3D printing processes not only can fabricate sophisticated and customized design but also use different kinds of polymers, ceramics, and metals to make a product. Accordingly, this high customization ability helps carmakers to develop tailored edition of the products to meet customers’ needs; hence, it improves customers’ loyalty and reduces risks to the minimum. It must also be mentioned that this technology excludes the traditional labor intervention to a great extent and thus reduces many of the errors that can be made or the hazards that may occur during manufacturing processes.
To sum up, additive manufacturing has various significant advantages for the automotive industry. Firstly, it improves product quality since it uses fast methods for prototyping and design, which improve the product design and quality; besides, it uses composite polymers that add distinctive features to the product. Secondly, additive manufacturing is considered a cost-efficient technology since it eliminates many traditional industrial processes that reduce manufacturing costs. Also, the final product in 3d printing does not need much post-processing. Thirdly, it also plays an essential role in reducing risk in the automotive industry since it allows engineers to test the quality and efficiency of components easily before production. Finally, it enables producing customized versions of the product to a specific market’s needs that also reduces risks to the minimum.