Manufacturers have long used 3D printers in their design process to create prototypes. Using 3D printers for these purposes is called rapid prototyping.
Why use 3D Printers for Rapid Prototyping?
In short: it’s fast and cheap. For example, Nike uses 3D printers to create prototypes of running cleats. They used to spend thousands of dollars (and wait weeks) on a prototype before they could hold it in their hands. Now, the cost is only in the tens or hundreds of dollars, and changes can be made instantly on the computer and the prototype reprinted on the same day.
Besides rapid prototyping, 3D printing is also used for rapid manufacturing. Rapid manufacturing is a new method of manufacturing where companies are using 3D printers for short run / small batch custom manufacturing. In this way of manufacturing the printed objects are not prototypes but end user products.
Car manufacturers, restorers and repairers have been employing 3D printing for a long time. Automotive industry experts only expect the use of AM technologies to grow in the coming years. Companies are using it to produce not just parts, but tools and interior elements. It has also enabled on-site development, leading to a decrease in dependence on foreign manufacturing.
Koenigseg use carbon fiber parts in their One:1 car. Thanks to a Dimension SST 1200es 3D Printer the company saved 40% of the cost and the parts were developed 20% faster than traditional methods. Similarly, Audi is using 3D metal printing to produce spare parts. They are in the midst of basically disrupting their own supply chain by printing spare parts on demand with a metal printer.
Even though large-scale manufacturers are the dominant users of 3D printing, other types of automobile enthusiasts are making their mark as well. Motorcar engineers all over the world are using printed parts to restore old cars. One such example is when Australian engineers printed out parts to bring a delage Type-C back to life. In doing so, they had to print parts that were out of production for decades and they succeeded.