When most people think of automotive manufacturing, they typically think of clanging metal parts, CNC machines, and sheet metal punching and stamping. But increasingly, additive manufacturing (AM), which uses plastic resins as well as metals, is becoming a key part of the automotive manufacturing process. SmarTech Manufacturing estimates the 3D automotive printing will bring in $2.3 billion in revenue by 2021.

Industrial 3D printers, with their large build sizes and fast speeds, have become indispensable in automotive manufacturing. AM now plays a key role in functional prototyping, design, tooling production, and end-use parts fabrication. Auto companies can print anything from single-use FDM prototypes to 3D printed metal parts that go directly into working vehicles. The technology is also used to make accessories that make driving safer and more fun. In the future, entire automobiles will be printed from complex metal lattice structures, enabling massive leaps in fuel efficiency.

3D Printing in the Automotive Industry