3d Technology and the Automotive Industry

Autonomous vehicles have drawn considerable attention in recent dates. Another technology which is making significant effect on the automotive industry is the 3D technology. In fact, automotive companies are some of the largest and first users of 3D technology on an industrial level.

The workflow from the conceptualization of a design to the manufacture of a final piece is accompanied by different stages. Let’s understand in detail about the difference in design, manufacture and redesign stages, using the technology of the 3D scanning, 3D design systems and 3D printing.

3D Scanning: The need of the hour

The production of functional prototypes that at the same time has to reach the level of a competitive car design, as per the automotive market, requires incredible precision and durability. This is when a 3D scanner is very helpful.

3D scanning is an ideal choice to make a fast, accurate and textured model of a medium-sized object, such as an alignment wheel or the exhaust system of a motorcycle., as it scans rapidly, catching exact estimations in high resolution. This allows it to be applied in a variety of fields, without the need for the use of additional equipment.

The ease of use, speed and precision of a 3D scanner have made it an essential product for a wide scope of enterprises. From the rapid development of prototypes to quality control, CGI to the preservation of historical heritage, the automotive industry to forensic sciences, medicine and prosthetic manufacturing to the aerospace industry, 3D scanning is being adapted to adjust, innovate and simplify a variety of avant-garde industries.

Read More: How 3D Printing is Accelerating the Growth of IoT Startups

Use Case –
Polish Project: The Hussarya Arrinera
automotive industry, cnc machining, 3d scanning, 3d technology
Image Credit: arrinera.com

The Hussarya Arrinera project was built from scratch. All parts of the vehicle exterior body, engine and interior were redesigned in spite of the way that they frequently utilize technologies that are well demonstrated, not only to meet all the requirements but also to represent the aesthetic worthy of a super sports car.

Reverse engineering reduces the cost of production

Redesigning a supercar not only consumes time, but it is also a very expensive process. Arrinera engineers looked for ways to accelerate development and reduce costs. Finally, they decided to use reverse engineering, a process to reconstruct the information from an existing piece to redesign it later.

When 3D Scanning Meet Reverse Engineering

3D scanning together with reverse engineering software becomes a powerful tool to obtain accurate data of any mechanical, electronic, artistic piece and more, without these necessarily being designed in CAD

With the 3D scan, we can know the mathematical model of any part so that after this we can perform inspection and measurement to it, in this way we can modernize the manufacturing processes and even perform the redesign and/or update of the piece.

By adapting to professional 3D scanning, the engineers worked on the supercar, gaining the ability to have useful data about the geometry of the vehicle parts. An excellent example to show the capabilities of 3D scanning technology was the design and manufacturing process of the clutch housing.

It is no secret that the clutch of a sports car undergoes different pressures of the normal car. A torque of 810 Nm requires not only a reliable use but also a lightweight design. 3D scanning made it possible to capture the technical documentation of a carcass that was obtained and redesigned in the CAD program to install it in the structure of the vehicle.

3D scanners are metrology equipment

The measurement made by a 3D scanner is based on pattern projection on the measuring surface. The patterns are deformed depending on the curvature and are recorded by a detector integrated into the measuring head. The device measures only the surface accessible to the detector. To get the measurements from every angle, the object is then scanned with the help of a rotary table. The rotary stage has a load capacity of approximately 300 kg and a diameter of 50 cm, which is technically enough to make a precise measurement of the pieces.

The image of the detector is then converted to a point cloud. Each point of the point cloud holds the necessary information about the measurements shown in XYZ coordinates, which post-processing can be used for quality control as in the case of Arrinera to redesign and mill the model in CNC machining.

Read More: 10 Steps from Product Design to Manufacturing

Based on the resolution, the point cloud in a single measurement may consist of 5 to 10 million points for a resolution of 5 to 10 megapixels, respectively. In the case of Arrinera the sportscar, a 3D scanner with a 10-megapixel detector was used since it was necessary to accurately reproduce the edges of the object.

The clutch housing was scanned from both sides and its point clouds were obtained. For each point, there are six individual measurements. Using a rotating table with the 3D scanner the individual measurements were previously aligned. The alternative option is, for example, to use placeholders.

After the scanning process, it is possible to convert the point cloud into a triangulated mesh. However, before the conversion, it is necessary to align the results of the measurement.

For the alignment here, the three-point method is used, where these points are selected from the point clouds. Based on the software you can automatically determine the position results of one or the other. The objective is to obtain a cloud of points completely represented by the scanned object. The use of the rotary table simplifies the operation of the alignment of the results because it divides it into two groups of points representing each of the sides.

Another important step to be taken before converting the point cloud into a triangulated mesh is the use of “global alignment” function, which based on the position of the points, will precisely align all the point clouds with each other. In this stage, the areas of overlap of different measures are also eliminated.

After these operations, the point cloud becomes a triangular mesh. For the Arrinera project, the STL output format was chosen, which is the most popular format for triangular meshes due to its compatibility for 3D printing and milling machines. The triangular mesh can also be used as the basis for CAD modelling. Arrinera makes the adjustment of the CAD model and then sends it to the software that operates the CNC machining center. In short, 3D scanning not only reduces the budget to the company, but it also connects with the manufacture of the piece.

3D manufacturing flying in coordination with 3D printing

Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing opens the way for new car designs, reduced costs and reduced manufacturing times. From the printing of auto parts and accessories to the creation of new concepts from scratch, the possibilities of 3D printing seem endless.

Some industry observers imagine that in the future customers will connect to the network to design cars according to their own specifications, which they will then send to 3D printing and they will be delivered in less than two days. More recently, the automotive industry plans to produce cars that contain 3D printed components to improve vehicle properties, such as weight, speed and reliability.

For example, Ford, which has automotive plants in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, explores the use of 3D printing to produce accessible, large, one-piece auto parts, such as fenders and spoilers. The automotive giant thinks that 3D printing could have immense benefits for automobile production, including the ability to produce lighter auto parts that could help improve fuel efficiency.

This example offers only an overview of what could come later in terms of automotive design. According to a recent report by SmarTech Publishing, the 3D printing market for automobiles is expected to reach 4,226 million USD in 2022, compared to 2,506 million USD that it generates at present.

Design and print your car in 12 hours

For several years, automakers have used prototypes to accelerate current car designs. They have also been used to test several specimens before their production. For example, Ford says it has been able to develop prototype parts in hours or days, instead of months, with lower costs than traditional methods because 3D printing eliminates the need for tools and moulds.

3D printing can also be used to enable the manufacture of specially designed tools to boost factory production. A study by Deloitte notes that BMW does this effectively with the creation of hand tools that are used in testing and assembly. BMW reported that these tools have helped save 58% of total costs and reduced project time by 92%.

Audi also uses 3D printing to produce spare parts as an effort to improve its distribution chain. Although it has yet to implement 3D printing throughout its auto parts catalogue, Audi has used 3D printing to produce a metal water pump for its DTM racing car. By placing 3D printers around the world, it is able to print some auto parts on demand. This process benefits consumers and eliminates overproduction.

The use of 3D printing in the automotive industry does not start and end with the printed auto parts. As by integrating registration marks and sensors into the products, manufacturers make each step of the life cycle recordable from the initial exploration of the 3D object to the design, the production process, the quality measurement, the delivery and its use in the real world. With this information on the life cycle, manufacturers will be able to improve the design and construction of auto parts in the future.

The use of 3D printing for automotive manufacturing leads to new levels of innovation. With its potential for personalization and convenience, 3D printing will put customers in the driver’s seat.

How the automotive industry makes use of 3D printing

#1 For the creation of prototypes of pieces.

Car manufacturers use 3D printing to create the first prototypes of parts. This helps engineers and suppliers to select the best components in the most reliable way possible without involving high costs or waiting periods.

#2 Functionality tests by the user.

More and more elements, such as door handles, are tested by teams of engineers and even potential customers.

#3 Concept Cars.

Concept Cars are designed vehicles created to measure the reactions of customers in car shows. The main application of 3D printing on these cars is to create parts of the inside of them.

#4 Production in series of the smallest pieces.

Although there are very few examples of pieces produced in series by 3D printing, we highlight the control panel of the Veyron or the cover of the cleaning fin of the Lamborghini Gallardo printed by selective laser sintering.

#5 Unique cars.

Luxury cars like Ferrari, Pininfarina or Guigaro can have customizable parts thanks to 3D printing.

#6 Formula 1.

Formula 1 is making more and more use of 3D printing to create prototypes, as well as car parts.

#7 Local Motors and Urbee.

Local motors use 3D printing in many of its cars. Urbee, the 3D printed car has a body completely printed in 3D, made by Stratasys. In fact, Stratasys is working on a large-scale 3D printing process for automotive parts.

Strati, the first car printed in 3D

Image Credit: treehugger.com

Beyond cinema, third-dimensional printing has reached the automotive realm and this is not something recent. It was in 2014 when the Local Motors company presented the first car printed in three dimensions at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS).

It was the Strati, a two-seater car whose engine could take it up to 60 km per hour. The creation of the car took an average of 18 months, from the moment the company launched a call for designers to send their proposals.

Strati was created using the Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM) technique using a reinforced carbon plastic. The only elements that were not printed are the battery, the motor, the wiring and the suspension.

To be precise, 3D printing is very flexible when it comes to making prototypes of products, and the costs are much lower. In the same way, this manufacturing process could offer the possibility of creating spare parts for vehicles that are no longer in production, as Volkswagen announced a year ago.

The above-mentioned case studies give a clear understanding to us that the possibilities of 3D printing are endless and we are soon going to reap the benefits of 3D printing technology to its maximum potential in transforming the automotive industry.

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