The company is exploring 3D printing for lighter-weight parts and personalization.Ford has launched a test program with a Stratasys Infinite Build 3D printer, exploring potential applications for large-scale automotive parts.The company suggests the Infinite Build can be used to build plastic car parts of practically any shape or length. The setup potentially provides a more efficient and affordable way to create tooling, prototype parts and components for low-volume vehicles.
"With Infinite Build technology, we can print large tools, fixtures and components, making us more nimble in design iterations," said Ford's technical leader of additive manufacturing research, Ellen Lee.
Traditional manufacturing methods for certain parts, such as intake manifolds, can bring delays of several months between an engineer's computer model and the first prototype parts. Using a 3D printer could reduce the wait to just a few days and significantly slash costs.
Ford admits that 3D printing is not yet fast enough to be considered for high-volume manufacturing, though it could be efficient enough for Ford Performance products or personalization.