Cloud software boosts automotive 3D printing

3D technology could change how auto manufacturing is done.

Cloud software boosts automotive 3D printing

Automobile manufacturers are always on the lookout for the next great breakthrough to improve production and increase efficiency. For the last few years, those within the industry have speculated that 3D printing would be the next big trend, but developers struggled to determine how the technology would play a role in the creation of vehicles.

Those issues have since been resolved, and 3D printing is set to play a huge part in the way manufacturing companies create and build cars. With the ability to increase flexibility and reduce risk, the advancements in 3D printing are viewed as a tremendous breakthrough for car companies. Materials can be designed and developed faster and better than ever before.

Data from Research and Market showed that many car manufacturers are ramping up their investment and production of 3D printing. In 2015, the 3D printing market for automotive businesses is measured at 3.49 million kilograms – a huge leap from where it was even a few years prior. However in the next five years, the use of the technology will continue its tremendous growth, up to 11.53 million kilograms by 2020.

Before many automakers are able to take full advantages of everything the technology has to offer, manufacturers must have a plan in place for collecting data and lowering total cost of ownership. Because oversight is so important, a proper strategy for 3D printing can help guide an automobile manufacturer.

With greater flexibility comes risk
Among the benefits of 3D printing, especially for vehicle manufacturers, is that it expands the possibilities of design. As 3Dprint.com explained, automakers can create customized features, improving upon the design of a car previously thought to have been perfected. The weight of auto parts can be lowered, making the car lighter and easier to drive, while wiring can be placed through hollow features to make brakes and mufflers work more efficiently.

The great possibilities of the car design also give dealerships greater flexibility. By having more options to sell customers, car companies can improve the chances that anyone who enters their store will walk away with a vehicle they are looking for.

"The great possibilities of the car design also give dealerships greater flexibility."

Along with greater flexibility, the constantly advancing technology is also changing how the cars are made. Some companies are already using the printers to do more than just make parts or ease the manufacturing process. Motoburn wrote that some automakers are already using printers to create body-shells of hybrid vehicles. The materials used are mostly carbon-fiber reinforced plastic, which should hold up more safely in crashes than many traditionally manufactured cars.

However, as manufacturers become more comfortable with the 3D printers and the different customizations they can make, the risk involved with the process should decline. As it stands now, many companies have concerns about the durability and longevity of the parts they are printing. Those issues are being worked out, Auto Cheat Sheet stated. With so many of the world's top auto manufacturers now investing in 3D printing, the risk has evolved from low-quality parts to keeping up with the competition. The best way for a company to ensure it is staying competitive is by having an advanced manufacturing engineering system for oversight.

Cloud oversight helps business run better
Some auto manufacturers have been doing the same thing for so long that any sort of change can be present a huge adjustment to their TCO. Buying new technology such as a 3D printer is a large cost for a business, and the return on investment may not come right away.

A cloud-based MES, such as NGIMES from Atachi, helps ease some of those risks. The software program provides instant access to analytics, so manufacturers can determine how well 3D printing is working for their business. Businesses can also track the TCO of specific products or features, so when they make adjustments to their vehicles because of 3D printers, they are better able to determine what value that will have.

As 3D printing becomes more popular, auto manufacturers will be forced to develop a strategy for its implementation and use. Using NGIMES is the best way to guarantee everything runs according to plan.

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