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The Role of 3D Printing in Electric Vehicles Manufacturing

Times move forward and society evolves and adapts to new changes. The same thing can be seen with technology, a little more than a decade ago we could not even imagine the technology that we have today at our fingertips. This is reflected in our daily lives, from new inventions such as with “air fryers” or drones with facial tracking to make video reports, to advances in existing technology such as 5G or 3D printing. But, there is one particular advancement that we have become increasingly accustomed to in recent years, and that is electric vehicles (EVs).

These types of cars, motorcycles and even vans are increasingly prominent in our lives. Their low emissions coupled with the cost of filling up a tank are, among other things, attractive for consumers. Indeed, today, a large percentage of cars on the world’s roads are hybrid or electric. And, as we mentioned at the beginning, technology is constantly evolving, and that is why 3D printing is already starting to be implemented in the manufacturing of electric vehicles by a number of brands.

Why Use Electric Vehicles?

There are several reasons, Firstly why people decide to purchase an electric vehicle over a gas or diesel one. On other side, there are those drivers who decide to take action and take responsibility for the environment. Something we all know is that the pollution of an electric vehicle are zero, so this type of driver is able to directly contribute to sustainability efforts.  On the other hand, there are those who think about their pocket. An electric car is a large initial investment, but in the long run it is very profitable given the low cost required to use the EV (Electric Vehicle). Finally, there are people who are forced to buy one of these cars for reasons such as restrictions.

When Start of 3D Printing for Electric Vehicles?

3D printing has been part of the automotive sector for some time now. In addition to applications like rapid prototyping, 10 years ago we also started to see the adoption of 3D printing for cars by consumers. It all started when the so-called makers, people who have 3D printers at home and create their own home models, began to design small customization parts for their vehicles. Some of them incorporated small design accessories or even some minor parts of the cars’ structure.

first 3d printing cars manufacturing strati

Still, it was not until 2014 at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago (IMTS) that a car was first printed in its entirety with a 3D printer. This was Strati, a small two-seater electric vehicle with styling similar to beach buggies produced by Local Motors. This car went unnoticed in most of the global media despite being a first. Unlike other 3D printed cars, Strati had only 49 parts and was printed in less than 48 hours. It also had just under 200 km of range, so despite talk of mass-producing it in 2015, it fell short of being a success.

In 2018, the car that we know today as XEV YOYO , but at the time was known as LSEV , was introduced. Designed by X Electrical Vehicle (XEV) and manufactured in collaboration with Playmaker, this small vehicle can be printed in just 3h and has only 57 parts. It was launched in 2019, and what was once a small company now has dealers in many parts of the world and sells thousands of vehicles annually.

When we look back five years ago, We realize that 3d printing in the world of the automotive sector was not integrated. Until a few small 3d printed electric vehicles like the KILO design or the 4ekolka. These technologies were also used for the restoration of vehicles by BMW and Volkswagen, Fast forward to today, and the automotive landscape has been transformed beyond what we could have imagined back then.

What 3D Printing Materials and Technologies Work Best for Electric Vehicles?

Today, many automobile manufacturing brands are using 3D printing technology, in various aspects like small parts as well as standard ones. This includes producing small components for both electric and traditional vehicles, as well as integrating them into their production lines. On the other hand, 3D printers are not the only thing that brands use, another clear example of the use of 3D technologies in the automotive industry are 3D software, 3D scanners, and test cars. Over time, the options for materials compatible with EV additive manufacturing have significantly broadened from the initial restriction to plastics. Today, manufacturers can choose from a diverse range of materials, with thermoplastics like ABS, nylon, and resins being the most prevalent in the industry.

Applications and Uses

Some manufacturing companies have recognized that using 3D printing for manufacturing parts offers several advantages over traditional methods. Not only is it faster and cheaper, but the resulting parts are proving to be just as durable. To ensure their reliability, these printed parts are undergoing thorough testing to determine their capabilities for integration into vehicle production. Whether they're made from metals, plastics, or ceramics, all these parts must pass stringent testing standards.

in the past, most companies were cautious about using 3d printed parts in their vehicles. They doubted the strength and durability of such components. Over time, today already many brands have already been created with these technologies in their cars. For example, Volkswagen alone has integrated such parts into 13 different car models, made from both metal and plastic. Dr. Stefan Leest, Volkswagen's Chief Technology Officer, attests to their strength, stating that "3D printed parts are as strong as parts manufactured by traditional methods.

manufacturing application in 3d printing

what is the Future of Electric Vehicles in 3d printing?

We have talked about the past and present of 3D printed electric vehicles. But what does the future hold for this sector? Generally speaking, there are many speculations, but if one thing is certain is that following the trajectory we have observed over the last decade, we know that it will continue to grow. This is proven by the fact that there are a number of projects confirmed by some brands for 2024 that involve additive manufacturing technologies.

future of electric vehicles in 3d printing

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