Ford Moves a Step Closer to Mass 3D-printed Production Parts

Tyler Wooley
by Tyler Wooley
ford moves a step closer to mass 3d printed production parts

Ford is trying its hand at a new way of manufacturing inexpensive and lightweight car parts: 3D printing.

While 3D printing has existed in the auto manufacturing scene for quite some time, it was largely used for prototypes and molds, not the actual product.

Ford is now looking to use the technology to produce a variety of customizable and low-volume parts.

Manufacturers have used this technology, in some capacity, for years. Local Motors designed and made the Strati, the first 3D printed electric car, and racing teams have used it for specialty parts.

Frank Stephenson, design chief at McLaren, told Forbes that the company’s product development period has shrunk from 36 months to 18 months, all thanks to 3D printing.

Manufacturers’ use of 3D printing used to be limited by the size of the parts able to be produced. In the case of the Blue Oval, that issue no longer exists.

Ford is using the massive Stratasys Infinite Build 3D printer to make parts that take up more than a little desk space. Large parts, such as a spoiler or long interior panel, is no problem for this room-sized mammoth.

For now, the destination for these parts remain low-volume performance cars and customizable options ordered by buyers. However, Ford’s Technical Leader for Additive Manufacturing Research, Ellen Lee, said in a media release that the new technology will eventually translate into large-scale 3D printed auto manufacturing.

[Images: Ford Motor Company]

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  • Jeff Zekas Jeff Zekas on Mar 11, 2017

    Classic car parts: this is the obvious use for 3-D printing.

  • Rustyra24 Rustyra24 on Mar 12, 2017

    I just bought a small 3D printer to make parts for my Toyota and itt seems to work really well. Based on the filament you could make a good product

  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂