3-D printing has the potential to revolutionize the auto industry, and American automaker Ford will be one of the first to test the waters. On Monday, the company announced that it is testing 3-D printing for large-scale parts with Stratasys’s commercial-grade Infinite Build 3-D printer.
The project will determine whether Ford will be able to use 3-D printing to create auto parts in low volumes -- ultimately driving down costs and allowing customers to purchase made-to-order pieces. Typically, producing auto parts requires the use of specific, expensive molds to build certain components, but because these molds are so costly to create, it has never made sense for manufacturers to build them for single or small-batch use (unless the customer is willing to cover the costs).
In addition to costs, 3-D printing could also create auto parts from lightweight materials, in turn increasing fuel efficiency and being more environmentally friendly. “Ford estimates that a 3-D printed spoiler could be less than half the weight of the equivalent made from a metal casting,” TechCrunch reports.
If the testing goes smoothly, Ford could benefit in a number of ways, including offering upgrade options and niche vehicle lines, boosting race car manufacturing, building inexpensive prototypes and more.