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Tesla Model Y teardown shows evidence of polymer deposition 3D printing in main AC unit

Automaker may have turned to 3D printing to address supply chain issues

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Tesla fan website MunroLive published a teardown video of the new Tesla Model Y that was launched – quite softly – at the end of last March, in the midst of Coronavirus crisis-related supply chain issues. Possibly to address those issues, the video shows that the Model Y’s HVAC system integrates a partly 3D printed part.

Slant3D, a serial production AM factory using farms of extrusion system was the first to post the video. The firm points out on its blog that “the reason for the 3D printed part is unclear. Though it is likely to ensure production continues uninterrupted. The HVAC housing is an exceptionally large molded part. The cost and time of manufacturing are huge, even by injection molding standards. It would not be unsurprising if the mold for this part required 6-8 weeks to produce and cost as much as $250-500,000. That is a huge production delay, especially for the frenetic pace that Tesla Operates at.”

The original mold for the part likely contained an imperfection so it would have had to be redesigned and reproduced. This would have caused a launch delay in normal times and possibly even more so in COVID-19 times. So Tesla resorted to 3D printing. Judging by the images, the new part is not entirely 3D printed.

Rather, it looks as if Tesla used a kind of multi-axes polymer DED process to deposit material on the 3D surface of the injection molded part, so as to recreate the desired shape. Similar practices for part repair are somewhat common in metal cladding but has not yet been seen in polymer part production. Stratasys and Siemens (and Boeing and Ford) have been working on this kind of AM hardware, mainly for depositing composite materials.

With all the robotic arms automating production in Tesla’s factory, adding a polymer extrusion engine seems a relatively straight-forward process. The question remains whether this was just an emergency solution or the start of greater adoption of 3D printing by Tesla Motors.

Source: Slant3D blog

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites and, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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