Automotive additive manufacturing has been embedded into the core of the auto industry in the form of rapid prototyping since the very first AM technologies appeared at the end of the 1980s. In fact, General Motors was one of the four companies to install the SLA-1 from 3D Systems, the first 3D printer ever created, in 1987. AM has subsequently gradually entered new areas of the automobile industry, such as motorsports and luxury limited editions, to then open new possibilities in terms of mass customization.

The next and final phase of automotive additive manufacturing adoption is now seeing AM radically alter supply chain and production dynamics, becoming the standard for tooling and enabling new possibilities in spare parts and obsolescence management. The ultimate goal remains the introduction of AM technologies to digitalize and further automate serial mass production. In particular, the unstoppable EV revolution stands to both benefit and further drive the adoption of AM, starting with a strong demand for prototyping and developing an entirely new generation of vehicles and eventually continuing through weight optimization and integrated subassemblies becoming a key requirement to extend mileage and reduce energy consumption within increasingly “solid-state” vehicles.

As one of the first major consumer product industries to do so, the implications and the potential for this paradigm shift are extremely significant for both AM and the global manufacturing industry as a whole. The implications of automotive additive manufacturing extend to all industries linked to parts production, from raw materials to global distribution. The prospects, given the sheer scale of the global automotive market, are incredibly important for the development of automotive additive manufacturing technology. As high throughput AM technologies such as thermal powder bed fusion (MJF, HSS, SAF) and high-speed photopolymerization (DLS, cDLM, etc.) continue to become more established, this year we may finally see an escalation of metal AM adoption within automotive.

The production requirements of the automotive segment—and its subsegments—are unique, and strictly tied to both the underlying characteristics of the automotive segment (high productivity requirements, lower cost of materials, high automation of production), its changing trends (demand, regulations, scale economics, geopolitical situations, supply chain dynamics) and macro trends (propulsion systems, mass customization, smart mobility, connectivity and digitalization).

Most manufacturers of 3D printing technology have established strong ties and experience developing and selling solutions to the auto industry. The reality, however, is that the additive manufacturing industry at large is still only just waking up to the challenges associated with vertically integrated manufacturing solutions.

The next phase of innovation, adoption, and industrialization of automotive additive manufacturing passes through the scaling up of final parts production. In order for AM technologies to complete the necessary transition, several steps will need to be taken. These include continued investments in technology R&D from major stakeholders in both the AM and the automotive industries; increased AM integration in the end-to-end manufacturing workflow to reduce costs and increase speeds, as well as the continued development of DfAM (Design for Additive Manufacturing) optimizations. With new machines such as SLM Solutions’ 12-laser NXG 600 system, and especially new metal binder jetting systems such as Desktop Metal’s P-5 Production Systems, GE Additive’s H3 series, HP’s MetalJet and ExOne’s X1 160Pro targeted specifically at this market segment and arriving into the market this year, the past tow years have been shaping up as a most critical period for this next phase of AM’s growth. Now, most of those machines are ready to begin producing millions of parts for the automotive industry at costs that should eventually be competitive with widely used MIM technologies.

In this first AM Focus of 2023, together with some of the most important automotive and AM industry stakeholders and experts, we build upon our previous Automotive AM Focus editions (dating back to 2020) to continue to shed light on the latest developments for automotive additive manufacturing in terms of hardware technologies, material science and production automation, presenting an additional analysis of how AM is enabling the EV revolution.

  • Magway pulls the future of transportation into the present. An interview with Matt Bacarese-Hamilton, Product Manager.

    Magway pulls the future of transportation into the present

    We focus a lot on end-use cases for AM because they are often among the most exciting applications of the technology’s fairly recent developments. However, the use of AM for…

  • German Bobsleigh racing spikes it up with a BMW 3D printer

    The Bobsleigh and Sleigh Association for Germany (BSD) is about to start a new season, with two major highlights for the home audience: the FIL Luge World Championships (January 22nd…

  • Solukon delivers SFP770 post-processing system to the Additive Manufacturing Campus of the German automotive manufacturer, the BMW Group.

    Solukon delivers SFP770 post-processing system to BMW Group

    Solukon, the AM post-processing company, has delivered its SFP770 combined unpacking and cleaning station for plastic parts to the German automotive manufacturer, the BMW Group. The Group has integrated the…

  • The (metal) die is (sand) cast

    Should metal casting via binder jetting sand 3D printed molds be considered a metal additive process? Sand binder jetting of molds (or cores) for metal cast parts can be highly…

  • General Motors acquires Tesla’s 3D printing ‘gigacasting’ partner

    According to Reuters, General Motors (GM) has acquired Tooling & Equipment International (TEI), a firm responsible for helping Tesla develop its ‘gigacasting’, a 3D sand printing method for producing large…

  • Divergent Technologies raises $230 million in series D equity financing

    Divergent Technologies, Inc., the company that has invented, developed, and commercialized the world’s first end-to-end digital industrial manufacturing system, completed a Series D equity financing totaling $230 million. The round…

  • Toyota Stratasys F3300

    Toyota to purchase Stratasys’ new F3300 3D printer

    Days after the first reveal of its F3300 industrial 3D printer, Stratasys has signed an agreement with Toyota through which the automotive giant will become the first to purchase the…

  • POLYLINE automated AM production line installed at BMW

    Few companies in the world are doing more to implement AM production lines (and raise awareness around AM possibilities) than BMW Group. In the latest high-profile initiative, the POLYLINE project…

  • Autentica Car Parts to offer 3D printed automobile components - utilizing the blockchain, NFTs, and distributed manufacturing.

    Autentica Car Parts to offer 3D printed automobile components

    Autentica Car Parts, a start-up located at Sci-Tech Daresbury, UK, is expected to introduce a revolutionary digital platform specifically designed for 3D printable automobile components – utilizing the blockchain and…

  • Ci-Esse Srl acquires a Velo3D Sapphire printer

    Ci-Esse Srl, a precision machining contract manufacturer with more than 15 years of experience in additive manufacturing, has purchased a Sapphire printer from Velo3D to become the first member of…

Back to top button
Close Popup

We use cookies to give you the best online experience and for ads personalisation. By agreeing you accept the use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.

Close Popup
Privacy Settings saved!
Privacy Settings

When you visit any web site, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. Control your personal Cookie Services here.

These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems.

Technical Cookies
In order to use this website we use the following technically required cookies
  • wordpress_test_cookie
  • wordpress_logged_in_
  • wordpress_sec

Decline all Services
Accept all Services


Join our 12,000+ Professional community and get weekly AM industry insights straight to your inbox. Our editor-curated newsletter equips executives, engineers, and end-users with crucial updates, helping you stay ahead.