The fundamentals: “Advancing science” in automotive 3D printing

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The feats of additive manufacturing (AM) in the automotive industry are well documented. From Formula 1 parts to tooling for mass production lines, from metals to polymers, from track to off track, there isn’t a pocket of industry that doesn’t use it from a one way or another.

So when the pioneer of AM 3d systems set its roadmap after CEO Jeff Graves was inducted last year, it’s no surprise the company has chosen transportation and powersports as the focus of one of its newly industrial teams. created.

“Transportation and Powersports has been an important part of 3D Systems since its inception,” Kevin Baughey, Segment Manager, Transportation and Powersports at 3D Systems, told TCT. “We spoke to our application engineers and I was really surprised at the expertise they had to sit down with the companies and teams in the segment. “

From these initial conversations, breaking down current industry applications and challenges, two key areas emerged. One was productivity and efficiency in existing use cases. The other revolved around “advancing science”.

“The people we were looking at in these areas were really interested in basic science and engineering to solve problems,” Baughey explained. “It’s pretty typical in Formula 1 because they are at the forefront, but we also see [it] on the consumer side, [..] given the prevalence of electric and hybrid vehicles and all the advanced propulsion systems entering the market. “

In metals, Baughey emphasizes thermodynamic and fluid management applications where the design freedoms offered by AM allow components such as heat exchangers and hydraulic accumulators to be packaged more efficiently. There are also structural metal applications where weight reduction and retention is generally the goal. But, as Baughey explains, the reasons behind this are much more complex.

“When you look at the science behind it, there are static forces, dynamic forces that are being managed,” Baughey explained. “In many cases, the relief is what you achieve, but it’s important to understand why you get it. Sometimes it is more of a mass management than a simple relief. Sometimes it’s “can we lower the center of gravity or shift the center of gravity in certain areas and take advantage of that?” Another thing is the inertia of it. Many additives are applied to mass motion components that rotate or move dynamically back and forth and eliminate this inertia to eliminate any loss of efficiency, as well as durability. […] The key is to look beyond the typical term relief and examine the basic sciences that are applied to solve problems. “

Thanks to innovations in transmission, range and electric vehicles, the automotive industry is evolving. For this reason, Baughey says that the fundamental architecture of a vehicle is now also being questioned. Rather than doing things the way they always have been (“We weren’t basically unrolling a blank sheet of paper very often,” Baughey recalls of his past experience in systems engineering and management. vehicle programs.), now it’s about ‘tackling the math’ to understand the problems the industry is trying to solve, and this not only applies to advanced motorsport applications, but also spills over into the consumer space.

“To be quite frank, if the industry hadn’t been disrupted by range and electric vehicles etc, it probably wouldn’t move as fast as it does today and wouldn’t come in from the side. of consumers, ”Baughey added.

Recent developments in materials also lead to more advanced applications. In metals, a newly certified Scalmalloy high-strength aluminum alloy has been designed for load-bearing and low-weight structural components including suspension brackets and energy and fluid management components, while the M789 Certified opens up possibilities for more faithful and thinner auto parts. walls, such as die inserts with conformal cooling, tire tread molds, transmission parts and axle components. It’s not just metals either, the recently added Accura AMX Rigid Black SLA resin has been adopted by TOYOTA Gazoo Racing to create durable polymer production parts, while Baughey also notes less obvious opportunities in leveraging 3D Systems transparent resins for manufacturing interior automotive parts such as complex structures for lighting pipelines through the vehicle.

Baughey added, “Some of the advancements in materials have really taken them away from what were traditionally materials for prototype use, really what the life cycle of an automobile will look like.”


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