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Inside Ford's 3D Printing Center Where More Than 20K Parts Are Made Each Year 49

Posted by samzenpus
from the print-and-drive dept.
Lucas123 (935744) writes 'Ford has been using 3D printing for rapid prototyping since the mid-1980s, but in recent years it has ramped up its efforts adding new machines and materials. A tour of the facility revealed four different methods of 3D printing being used to prototype parts. For example, Ford uses Nylon 11 and laser sintering to make parts that can be retrofitted to working vehicles and tested over thousands of miles. The center also uses binder jet printing to form molds for metal prototypes by laying down layers of sand that are then epoxied together. Just one of its five 3D prototyping centers churns out more than 20,000 parts a year. Today, Ford could not meet new vehicle deadlines without 3D printing.'
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Inside Ford's 3D Printing Center Where More Than 20K Parts Are Made Each Year

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  • by Anna Merikin (529843) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @07:24PM (#47168469) Journal

    When the information so clearlyy calls for it.

    At its Dearborn Heights, Mich. facility, 14 different industrial 3D printers turn out 20,000 parts a year.

    H'mm ... that's approx 6 parts per machine per working day.

    Not much of a story here, just PR.

    • I'm wondering how many of those parts could be made on a standard CNC, and if they only use the printers for parts that would be too hard to machine with conventional processes.

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @07:48PM (#47168573)

      Given design, setup/prep, printing/molding, and trim work, that's still quite impressive. Mass producing one thing over and over is easy. Changing your tooling to deal with a new part is what's hard. When I worked in factories, we'd get laid off for a week when it was time to switch products. The engineers needed time to swap everything out. It was equivalent to rearranging a huge house where all the furniture weight over 30tons. I'd imagine these places are setup for lots of rapid changes so it wouldn't be so bad, but it's still probably requires a lot of work. Also, I doubt the workers are your regular linemen. They'd almost have to all be engineers.

      • by samkass (174571)

        Given design, setup/prep, printing/molding, and trim work, that's still quite impressive. Mass producing one thing over and over is easy. Changing your tooling to deal with a new part is what's hard. When I worked in factories, we'd get laid off for a week when it was time to switch products. The engineers needed time to swap everything out. It was equivalent to rearranging a huge house where all the furniture weight over 30tons. I'd imagine these places are setup for lots of rapid changes so it wouldn't be so bad, but it's still probably requires a lot of work. Also, I doubt the workers are your regular linemen. They'd almost have to all be engineers.

        When I wrote a bunch of software for InvisAlign over 10 years ago, we were ramping up to a capacity of 20,000 unique plastic parts per day while printing over half of that every day. I can only imagine what they're doing today. The actual printing was mostly stereolithography making molds, pressure forming, then CNC cutting them off, but there was also scanning, modeling, approvals, labeling, mesh cleanup, supports, etc., which all had to happen in 3d. The automation required to get all that humming alon

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      When the information so clearlyy calls for it.

      At its Dearborn Heights, Mich. facility, 14 different industrial 3D printers turn out 20,000 parts a year.

      H'mm ... that's approx 6 parts per machine per working day.

      Not much of a story here, just PR.

      Enh, perhaps. The story for me was this:

      > Ford has been using 3D printing for rapid prototyping since the mid-1980s

      Think of how recently 3D printing has entered common consciousness. Back in the eighties, I managed projects that involved (amongst many other things) creating custom parts via lost wax casting. And I had never heard of 3D printing at the time except as a joke in rec.humor. (The Xerox 3d printer is a great achievement, but the apple tastes of toner. That time the service guy was fixing

      • Stereolithography was patented in 1986. I would imagine Ford would be an early adopter (at least to buy one machine to see what they could do with it), so it's not really a claim I'd call completely crazy. This is the GP's point, but for 6 parts per day, that doesn't seem that crazy either - they likely run the machines 24/7 and produce mostly small parts with them.
    • I doubt they would only run 5 days a week.
      4 parts per machine per day

      Not really relevant though. If designing parts takes longer than printing them it doesn't matter how fast the printers are.

      Some just take a long time to print though

      A single binder jet print run can take as little as a week to as much as a month, depending on the job size and deadline

      • by 91degrees (207121)
        I'd presume demand varies unpredictably though. Once you do haver a set of designs, you don't really want to wait for more than a day or so for a part if you don't have to, but there are going to be times when no team is in the prototyping stage.
    • by flyneye (84093)

      Id be more impressed if it werent CV or Universal joints being printed....
      The damned oil burners probably been printing piston rings....

    • by MobyDisk (75490)

      Not much of a story here, just PR.

      So the difference between a story, and PR, is the volume of parts made per working day? There are many more interesting things to discuss and learn about 3D printing than solely speed.

      • OK: Here's both barrels.

        It used to take five years or more to develop a new model auto, back in the twenties through 60s. This lag time caused bad decisions like the introduction of 12- and 16-cylinder cars in the middle of the Great Depression and Edsels, planned in 1952-3 and introduced in 1958, after the target market had lost their jobs in a deep recession.

        These printers doubtless help reduce the time and make carmakers more nimble.

        That's the real story, and it is neither in TFA nor the summary.

        Call m

  • Company has been doing something for over 30 years, someone hears about it now and its news because its 3D printing?

    3D printing is not new, the only thing relatively new is the cost of fused deposition printers.

    • by sd4f (1891894)
      That's correct, it's the fact that the patent expired, and much cheaper devices could be made and sold without problems. However, I do think that 20 years ago, the state of CAD software and processing power wouldn't have had the best time on home computers. The slicers that create the gcode do take a fair bit of number crunching. I think it would have made printing much slower, significantly more so than it already is.
  • Wow. Manufacturing company uses CNC machine to build stuff. Couldn't manage without it. Whatever next?
  • So... what kinds of guns has Ford made on their fancy printers? I'd like to see some comparisons of guns made with the four different printing processes.
    • by GNious (953874)

      As long as none of the guns are made "by laying down layers of sand that are then epoxied together" .... yeah, Epoxy might be strong, but I'd really not trust that gun.

      • Are the insides of a gun exposed to temperatures above 60 C (140F)? Then normal epoxy won't hold and the sand comes out the barrel with the gun.
        Sand/epoxy printing seems to me to be a high strength relatively low temperature product. Like you need for a press for steel.
        For guns they'd use their laser sintered metal 3d printer. Laser sintered metal is sort of like cast iron: heat resistant but brittle. So it won't hold up to many shots.

  • Yaay, this is really great move by $F & now they can support old vehicles without needing to worry about inventory.
  • Such technological advancement will allow $F to maintain its even much better position in automotive industry

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