3D Printed Auto Parts—The Future Is Now
3D printing (also known as “additive manufacturing”) affords manufacturers the ability to create custom parts that fit together perfectly. Utilized for decades in the medical products and aerospace parts industries, 3D printing is increasingly being used in other industries as well, including the relatively recent advent of 3D printed metal auto parts.
New and Replacement Auto Parts
Automakers have made use of 3D printing processes since the late 1980s, with the initial output comprised primarily of plastic parts. Manufacturers such as Ford, BMW, Bugatti, Chrysler, Honda, Toyota, among others, have embraced 3D printing in their research and development efforts, including the production of working prototypes. While the automobile industry is currently unable to mass produce an all 3D printed vehicle, carmakers are already producing 3D printed parts, with the eventual goal, as soon as is feasible, of more fully integrating 3D printed parts into the original manufacture of future generations of automobiles.
Availing themselves of 3D printing processes for producing auto parts allows manufacturers to generate parts that are lightweight (which can improve fuel efficiency) and customizable, and that can be created quickly, enhancing the lean manufacturing focus on just in time inventory. Although plastic has traditionally been the material most often used in printing parts, as advances in additive manufacturing have been made, so too has the use of alternative materials.
For instance, in 2018, French luxury automaker Bugatti announced that it had developed a new 3D printed titanium brake caliper prototype which, it claimed, was the largest functional titanium component produced with a 3D printer. DS Automobiles, Citroen premium brand, has created 3D titanium printed parts for the ignition elements, as well as 3D printed titanium door handles, to give their DS 3 Dark Side edition vehicle a sleek, high tech feel.
Gas Usage In 3D Printing Process
To prevent corrosion, and to keep out impurities that can negatively impact the final product, 3D printed parts must be produced in an environment made free of oxygen, typically by the use of argon (and sometimes nitrogen) within the building chamber. That creates a stable printing environment, prevents fire hazards by keeping combustible dust inert, and controls thermal stress in order to reduce deformities.
Oxygen Monitors Can Improve Safety in Additive Manufacturing Processes
Dust from materials used in additive manufacturing, such as titanium, is, when exposed to oxygen, highly combustible and, therefore, requires monitoring to prevent possible explosions.Argon and nitrogen, while used in 3D printing for their oxygen depleting properties, require monitoring to ensure both the integrity of the finished part, and the safety of manufacturing personnel.
For quality control purposes, PureAire Monitoring Systems’ Air Check O2 0-1000ppm monitor has a remote sensor that can be placed directly within the printing build chamber, to continuously monitor the efficiency and purity of the O2 depleting gases (e.g. argon and nitrogen) used therein.
Moreover, to ensure employee safety, PureAire’s Oxygen Deficiency Monitors should be placed anywhere argon and nitrogen supply lines and storage tanks are located. In the event of an argon or nitrogen leak, a drop in oxygen will cause the built-in horn to sound and the lights to flash, thereby alerting employees to evacuate the area. PureAire’s Oxygen Deficiency Monitors measure oxygen 24/7, with no time-consuming maintenance required. PureAire’s monitors feature long-lasting zirconium sensors, which are designed to give accurate readings, without calibration, for up to 10 years.