Automotive industry has been a very early adopter of Additive Manufacturing technologies.
In the 80’s and 90’s better known as Rapid Prototyping.
It started with technologies like Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM) and Stereolithography. These were used for prototyping and pattern making. These technologies sped-up development cycles and made part iterations quicker and more efficient.
Fast forward to 2020, all car manufacturers have their AM technology departments, sometimes called Rapid Technologies.
Those departments usually have a wide variety of different AM technologies. But even with thousands of parts / prototypes produced every year, the main purpose still is prototyping. Evaluation of form&fit, function as haptics can’t be simulated to sign of designs for production.
There are some exemptions with individual customization of parts and reproduction of parts for old-timers and very few applications for super sport cars. But these Bugatti brake calipers, turbo-charger housings for Koenigsegg, as the super sport cars by Divergent , all can be labelled as ‘white unicorns’.
Fact is, metal additive manufacturing technologies are still far too expensive for serial production in auto industry. Serial production in automotive starts at a batch size of 120 000+. Productivity of technologies like L-PBF, E-PBF is still far too low to meet physical as economic criteria of automotive production. At the current state, the industry is banking on binder jetting technologies to meet quality requirements at highest productivity.
However, automotive industry is using AM technologies in many other ways. From fast creation of jigs&fixtures in production, to rapid tooling with conformal cooling features for higher throughput to heaps of prototyping. In these areas AM technologies can add value but not in final part production in automotive industry yet.
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