Ford Inc. on Monday stated that they are testing a 3D printing prototype in its Dearborn, Michigan Research and Innovation Centre with a motive of scaling up the development of the new cars. The US-based automaker is making attempts to customize and develop cost-effective car parts.

The massive 3D printing machine installed by Ford Inc. at its research centre is Stratasys Infinite Build; a Minnesota-based 3D printing giant. The US automaker stated that the machine bears the capability to print large car parts on a single print. Majorly, the company is testing the viability of the 3D printed car parts for future production.

Evaluating the massive 3D printing system, the automotive giant figured out that the Stratasys built futuristic printing device may lead to the customized car parts, shorter lead time, light weight parts and better fuel efficiency. All these perks will help the manufacturer to cut down the cost to an impactful extent.

Ford Inc.

Principle and working

The Stratasys room-sized 3D printer is way different from other 3D printers. The prototype printer works sideways; unlike other 3D printing devices that functions vertically upwards layer by layer. Hence, it is capable of printing much larger objects on a single roll. The printing process is totally different because for printing the whole huge part, the printer needs to layer the support structure. The desired design is uploaded on the printing machine through the computer-aided design program. The printing process prints out one layer at a time.

The printer uses a micro-pellet powder which is a sand-like mixture to visually execute design printing. The feed-powder is injected in the screw drive and heated until liquefaction. The high-temperature liquid material is ready to spill for performing the printing operation. There is a robotic arm that refills the material canisters when required during the process. So the printer can continue to process for many hours and even days.

The Infinite Build 3D printer runs without personal monitoring for a long time. Ford Inc. is planning to install camera system so that the engineers can monitor the device remotely. The company is targeting the way to achieve an optimized result from the device. To a major extent, they have learned about the orientation of the machine to have productive output. Also, they have known the method to develop innovative designs. By tweaking bead width, air gap and alteration in print speed the different customized designs can be developed. Yes, the machine does suffer from occasional hiccups, but we cannot expect the prototype to be perfect. The motive is to analyse the things to enhance the 3D technology for creating a productive impact on manufacturing cost.

Ford soon to put in practice the cost-effective 3D printing technology

Besides Ford, the Local Motors’ Strati is launched with 3D printed bodies at trade shows. Local Motors is planning to reach out the customers with the model soon. Actually, Ford has already performed experiments with 3D printed parts. They have won the 2015 Rolex 24 at Daytona employing the car with the 3Dprinted intake manifold. We can now expect Ford Inc. to scale up the car production using this high-end technology. The Ford’s race cars seem close enough to its release with 3D printing parts. But you never know, may be the blue-oval automaker brings down the technology in its next launch itself.