After leading a $65 million investment round for Desktop Metal, Ford has integrated the company’s Studio System and Production System in its Research and Advanced Engineering Organization in Michigan.
This technology is being used to accelerate prototyping, create manufacturing aids and fixtures, and manufacture limited scale production parts. “Innovation is in our DNA,” comments Ken Washington, VP of Research and Advanced Engineering and CTO of Ford Motors.
“We’re using 3D printers in prototyping of parts right now. Its uniquely suited for that because we can print parts right after you design a concept and see if that’s the design you want. This opens up a new design process where you can iterate more quickly.”
Desktop Metal drives automotive production
The Desktop Metal Studio System, which was recognized as the Enterprise 3D Printer of the Year (Metals) at the 2019 3D Printing Industry Awards, includes a debinding station and furnace. The system is FFF/FDM-based, using filament containing bound metal rods to create a part which is then sintered into a dense metal component. According to Washington, the Studio System has been vital in evaluating materials and parts that are then placed in Ford vehicles.
The Production System is an industrial machine using Single Pass Jetting (SPJ) technology, an inkjet and powder based method of metal 3D printing. As stated by Washington, this system builds on the innovations of the Studio System as it “opens up the possibility to 3D print at much higher speed and larger scale.”
As a result, an end-use 3D printed electrical plug component has been produced for the F-150 raptor vehicle and an undisclosed 3D printed part to be placed in the GT 500 performance vehicle which will be released on the market later this year.
Factory of the Future
Washington continued, “Long term were looking at many ways of integrating 3D printing for the factory of the future. We’re prototyping many concepts today both in the virtual space and the physical space.”
“We see the possibility of creating future factories where 3D printing is an integral part of the manufacturing method that is used in that future vision. That is why we’re so excited to be partnering with Desktop Metal because its is opening up the possibility for this scale to be realized at Ford.”
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Featured image shows the front cooling of the 2020 Shelby GT500. Photo via Ford.