Ford trialling Stratasys large-format 3D printer

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Ford Motor Company is testing 3D printing of large scale car parts using the Stratasys Infinite Build large-scale polymer 3D printer at its Dearborn, Michigan Research and Innovation Center.

The carmaker is currently exploring potential applications for future production vehicles, like Ford Performance vehicles or for personalised car parts. Increasingly affordable and efficient, the process of 3D printing for large car parts, like car spoilers, could benefit both Ford and consumers. Parts that are printed can be lighter in weight than their traditionally manufactured counterparts, and may help improve fuel efficiency.

The Stratasys ‘Infinite Build’ demonstrator, launched at the USA's IMTS show in September 2016, turns a Fortus 400mc FDM machine on its side, tipping up the build plate so that the part extends horizontally, making possible the production of metres-long parts.

Ellen Lee, Ford technical leader for additive manufacturing research, says: “With the Infinite Build technology, we are now able to print large tools, fixtures, and components, making us more nimble in design iterations.”

Using traditional methods, an engineer would create a computer model of the part and wait for months for prototype tooling to be produced. With 3D printing, Ford can print the same part in days at a significantly reduced cost. For example, a prototype for a new intake manifold could be produced over a couple of days as opposed to several months, at an order of magnitude lower cost.