Today, I had the opportunity to speak at an event sponsored by FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) at the World Expo in Milan. The event took place in an area called “Eurochocolate” and my job was primarily that of linking industrial AM technologies with experimental food 3D printing applications. This was meant to “sweeten” the industrial aspects of AM for the large, generalist public that was attending the conference. For me, on the other hand, the really fascinating part was to discover that FCA is really serious about AM and has been for over two decades, with several large SLA, SLS, binder jetting, FDM and other types of 3D printers in-house already.
FCA’s AM capabilities were recently outlined in a video on the new Alfa Giulia, as Alfa Romeo is one of the many brands that are part of this international automotive giant, which also includes Lancia, Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep and Ferrari, among others.
Since I own an (old) Alfa Romeo, I am a fan of these vehicles, for which design is of truly fundamental importance. The new Giulia is going to be extremely powerful and is meant to compete with the likes of BMW and Audi in terms of performance. On the aesthetic side, IMAO, there is no contest. The Giulia wins easily (although I am, admittedly, very partial here).
One of the elements that gives Alfa Romeos their distinctively aggressive and elegant look is the front grill “described as the maximum expression of the Alfa Romeo spirit”. The grill is the element that the AM team specifically focused on when they created this video about their internal use of 3D printing technologies.
The grill went from drawing to physical prototype through a seamless process. During the event, I had a chance to speak with Luigi Rizzato, Product Development EMEA CAD/CAM Additive Manufacturing Manager. He revealed to me the extent to which FIAT, now FCA, has been implementing AM and that they were the first to purchase a stereolithography 3D printer in Italy.
Now, the possibilities – while are still mostly confined to prototyping (at least as far as plastics are concerned) – are growing every day and FCA is seriously leveraging AM to further improve its sustainability practices and the efficiency of the new state of the art factories where the Giulia is being manufactured.
As explained by Roberta Sampieri, Product Development EMEA CAD/CAM Additive Manufacturing Specialist (whom I also met today), this particular project represents the “icon of speed and power manufactured through the fastest available technology”. Both Roberta and Luigi explained to me that, for FCA, it is of fundamental importance that new generations of designers begin to familiarise themselves with these technologies. The videos produced by FCA are a way to attract new professionals who are able to manage complex design projects from beginning to end.
To help the public understand the possibilities of 3D printing, the FCA team had dozens of model cars 3D printed in resin and given away. Keeping with the Eurochocolate theme, an SLS model of a FIAT 500 was even covered in delicious chocolate cream. The new Giulia, on the other hand, does not need chocolate to make me drool.