Though it hailed 3D printing as the "third industrial revolution" in 2012, The Economist cautioned that it "is not yet good enough to make a car." Since then, though, 3D printing, referred to as the additive manufacture in the auto industry, has advanced to the point that car bodies can and have been printed. In future, additive manufacture will likely be an integral part of the car supply chain, and not just at the point of creating models for design or rapid prototyping.
This past year, Deloitte University Press published a detailed study of the future prospects for car manufacturing in an article titled 3D Opportunity for the Automotive Industry. The value of 3D printing for rapid prototyping and realizing innovative new design has already been established across industries, but it can also be used in manufacturing the end product. That is what has the potential to really transform the supply chain for the car industry.
The report explains that incorporating additive manufacturing into automotive production can increase efficiency by giving more control over both the final parts and the tools of manufacturing to the auto builder. Using 3D printing to produce finished parts allows the printer to take the place of various other manufacturing tools. The printed parts offer the benefit of enhanced performance efficiency thanks to the lighter weight that can be achieved in additive manufacturing than in traditional forms of fabrication.
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