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 wasÂ 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 massiveÂ Stratasys Infinite Build 3D printerÂ 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]