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Injen Technology 3D printed air intake.

Vehicle companies make headway as 3D printing increases ingenuity

Classic vehicles, recreational vehicles, everyday vehicles, and even the vehicles of the future, are all benefitting from the expansive world of 3D printing. From emerging materials and innovative techniques to multi-color printing and expedited print times, 3D printing continues to advance, offering new and inventive ways to address many aspects of manufacturing in a wide range of industries, including that of the automotive industry. 

Take Injen Technology for example. They are using 3D printing with ABS plastic to produce fill-in car parts that can be used for dyno testing and accurately prototyping and generating custom-fitting parts. Their studies have shown that 3D printing produces similar enough or even the exact same testing results as using rotomolded parts, making this an efficient, cost-effective way to get them ready before they head to the final, costlier rotomolding process. Being able to test and customize vehicle parts through additive manufacturing is enabling companies, such as Injen Technology, to save time and money while being able to produce high-quality, specialty products. 

Other companies, such as COBB Tuning, are also using 3D printing to test designs and ensure custom parts are working as expected before they are sent for final production. But the versatility of 3D printing has enabled them to do much more than just produce traditional car parts. The onsite and speedy turn around time for production has given them the ability to experiment with creativity and opportunities that were once not able to be manufactured. This is especially important for the engineering process, because often, there are intricacies that cannot be captured through traditional manufacturing, but 3D printing is changing that. 

The ways that 3D printing can be integrated into the industry depend heavily upon the type of materials and technology being used. In some cases, full metal printing is enabling companies to produce performance-ready parts that are capable of replacing those that are traditionally machined. For example, earlier this year, GE Aviation announced it was using metal additive manufacturing to repair commercial jet engine components because these applications require a high level of customization. The use of 3D printing for these parts has resulted in an average of 50% less production time and twice the employee productivity. 

However, to incorporate 3D printing into any manufacturing process requires workforce training and experience with not just the printers and other hardware components, but also the 3D modeling and software programs that make additive manufacturing possible. Often, an interest or background in architecture, engineering, computer science, or other graphics-based field is a predecessor to becoming engaged in the ability to design and produce custom parts and accessories for, not just the automotive industry, but also the many other industries that use or benefit from efficient, cost-effective, onsite manufacturing.