In our previous installment, we explored some of the 3D manufacturing initial advancements within the automotive industry. We talked about how in 2013 the very first CAD file for a functional and printable handgun was released by a group called Defense Distributed. Although it was promptly taken down by the U.S. Department of State, there were over 100,000 unique downloads of the printable handgun file in just a two day span. We also covered the very first 3D printed car parts from companies like Glickenhaus and Local Motors, manufacturing the original titanium exhaust pipe or even replica dashboards from vintage 1960 Ferrari models. Next was the incredible Strati, which has shown remarkable innovation in regards to improving the safety of driving (because of new material manufacturing), and also the exciting idea of melting down a crashed vehicle (everything aside from the engine and suspension) and simply reprinting a new vehicle from the melted substance! If you’re interested in all the details, check out the full article here. In part two, we will be covering some of the more recent 3D printing techniques, specifically applied in the automotive sphere.
The Government Gets Involved
With all the buzz going around about 3D printed cars, the US Government couldn’t help but get in on the action. At the Oak Ridge lab, governmental engineers used its cutting-edge Big Area Additive Manufacturing Machine, or BAAM, to design and print an electric roadster based on the classic Shelby Cobra. In the same way the Strati was 3D printed, the vehicle is made almost exclusively from carbon-fiber reinforced plastic, including the entire body and chassis. If you are interested in seeing the making of the Oak Ridge Cobra, check out their video at the bottom of the here. With the US Government getting involved in this industry, it wasn’t long for some of the big boy OEMs to follow suit.
With the US Government and big time Original Equipment Manufacturers such as Fiat Chrysler getting involved in the 3D manufacturing game, it followed that with more funding available, the more opportunity for technological advancements would arise. For example, most all of these previous examples discussed have been within the framework of rendering auto parts in different parts of plastic. More recent advances have begun to explore other additive materials, such as metallic powder to create metal objects. In early 2015 the Federal Aviation Administration authorized the first chrome-alloy housing for use in General Electric jet engines. This chrome-alloy piece goes down as the original 3D printed part approved for use in aviation. Diverting from the industry norm of using superheated plastics, the General Electrics chrome-alloy piece utilized a pioneering technique in which metal powder is fused together by a laser, building upward to 3D print a solid metal object. This is not only a significant advancement from a materials perspe