Ford is one of the latest car manufacturers to come out of the tech closet – and to showcase how 3D printing can be used to make prototyping faster and more cost-effective. In a time where the price trend of oil — and in the consumer context gas — has an ever steepening curve towards the end of this natural resource, all cost savings, including R&D, are welcomed as a part of the solution to sustain the constant flow of innovative, user-centered but still affordable products for end users.
Traditionally Ford has used additive processes for prototyping, but like so many of their contemporaries, it’s always been a secretive discipline. However, more recently the company has gone public with its use of small, professional 3D printers within the prototyping process — notably with Makerbot 3D printers. Ford has demonstrated how it has used 3D printing to create several small components and parts as well as bigger ones like exhaust manifolds and brake rotors. From the smaller end of the spectrum – watch this official Ford video of one of their engineers 3D printing prototypes of a new gearstick:
Using 3D printers withing the product development process for prototyping and other R&D purposes does unquestionably have great benefits, but hopefully this year we will be able to see Ford and other big automotive manufacturers taking the tech even deeper into their production principles and ideology as well. The automotive industry could take note from their flying cousins in the aviation field – and develop ambitious plans that see 3D printing at the centre of production like in the case of Airbus. How common this approach already is behind the scenes – we don’t know – but hopefully we will see some official press information surrounding this theme in the not too distant future.