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In order to implement additive manufacturing inside a demanding sector, such as the automotive industry, you need to use adapted materials. The mechanical properties you expect from traditional manufacturing are now available with 3D Printing with high-performance materials. Here are the best 3D printing materials to use for automotive applications:
Some plastic materials, such as Polypropylene, are highly used in the automotive industry. Ultrasint® PP nat 01 has a mechanical profile enabling new applications, especially for the automotive industry. For example, Polypropylene can be used to 3D print interior components, dashboard parts, airflow, or adapted fluid systems.
Additive manufacturing allows for other possibilities with materials offering thermal resistance such as Ultrasint® PA6 FR an advanced engineering polymer powder containing a flame-retardant (FR) additive. This material combines excellent mechanical and thermal performance with flammability requirements; it is especially suited for applications in the electronics and transportation sector.
Ultrasint® PA6 MF highly resistant and perfect to create functional parts for engine bay parts and many other parts in the transportation sector. PA6 is strong enough to hold the whole engine assembly and handle all heat, vibration, and static loads. Thanks to 3D printing and the media tightness of this PA6 MF material, you can create made-to-measure chemical resistant parts such as 3D printed reservoirs.
Are you looking for a resistant and flexible material? With impressive properties such as high rebound, low compression set, and good fatigue behavior, TPU is ideal for applications requiring shock absorption, friction, or flexibility!
Ultrasint® TPU 88A or Ultrasint® TPU 01 can both be used in the automotive industry to create car interior components, for example. With a Shore A 88, air filter covers, bellows gimbal, or any flexible and resistant parts needed in the automotive industry can be 3D printed using TPU.
It is also possible to use more sustainability into your manufacturing process using bio-derived materials. 3D printable Nylon PA11 is based on 100% renewable biomass sources. The Castor seed is extracted from the castor plant to make oil. The oil is then converted into the monomer (11-aminoundecanoic acid), which is finally polymerized into Polyamide 11. Here are some options adapted to the creation of automotive parts:
Many car lovers actually enjoy customizing their cars to get a unique vehicle. It can be some external design features, but also some options for the internal components of the car. Since it’s a special order, this has a cost for car manufacturers. With 3D printing, creating only one version of a model is not a big deal.
EDAG also created a 3D printed car called Genesis. But that one’s not exactly a vehicle, it’s more of an innovative physical concept. It increases the safety of passengers thanks to a revolutionary structure, inspired by turtle shells, produced using the Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technology. Why such an inspiration? The turtle benefits from millions of years of evolution for their protective shell, which makes it quite optimized by nature. But reproducing such types of structures is not always an easy task. Additive manufacturing makes it possible to produce such complex geometries. What about the results? The optimized structures performed really well in crash tests.
Creating more sustainable vehicles is also a key concern when it comes to the automotive industry. Urbee is designing a 3D printed electric car that aims to achieve an impressive milestone. Indeed, the team wants the car to take two people and a dog from New York to San Francisco, using only 10 gallons of biofuel. How is it possible? The shell of the car is entirely 3D printed (using the Polyjet technology), optimized to be extremely lightweight.
This Projet M car has been developed by Shell and now has 93 3D printed parts. This project, and more especially its design is inspired by Gordon Muray’s T.25 concept city car, from 2010.
This car is a super light and energy-efficient city car. Shell actually saved time and money while creating this vehicle, because additive manufacturing offered them the possibility to get all their components way faster than with traditional manufacturing techniques.
Luxury car brands are also implementing additive manufacturing in their production process! The car manufacturer Bentley used metal 3D printing, on one of its luxury cars: the Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6. This car is a hybrid concept car launched in 2015. Parts of the grill and parts of the body have been created using additive manufacturing. This car is proof that it is possible to combine new technologies and handcraft! Intricate and complex 3D printed parts brought great value to the making of this vehicle.
As you’ve noticed, the era of the mass-produced fully 3D printed cars is not a reality yet. The most advanced projects are either only 3D printed car parts or prototypes. But research in this field is going quite fast since there’s a lot of interest in the value additive manufacturing can bring to the automotive industry.
A major difficulty is the cost of 3D printing. Indeed, additive manufacturing is not always the cheapest production technique for a very large series of large parts. That issue is especially problematic for metal 3D printed parts, broadly used in the automotive field. But the ongoing decrease of 3D printing costs for all technologies is changing the current dynamics.
As a result, we might have to wait for a few decades for this technology to become a regular way to produce complete cars and to see the world’s first 3D printed car to be sold. But to manufacture spare parts, 3D printing is already an impressive ally, creating bright possibilities, either in terms of design optimization, of lightweighting, of sustainability, and creativity.
Ready to start embracing the power of additive manufacturing for your 3D printed car parts projects, either to build a functional prototype, a proof of concept, or a finished product? Get started with our online 3D printing service, give a try to our SLS or SLM solutions! Or maybe do you want to know more about 3D printed car manufacturing?
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