The car manufacturer’s Spanish branch Ford Motor Company is the first in Europe to expand its machine fleet with the Form 3L, a large-format 3D printer from the 3D printer manufacturer Formlabs.
Ford will use the Form 3L to design and manufacture plastic caps that are used in vacuum tests to test for engine leaks. The automaker is already using 3D printing to prototype new tools and produce selected parts faster and cheaper than traditional manufacturing methods.
“We are proud to support such a renowned automobile manufacturer as Ford,” said Stefan Hollaender, General Manager EMEA at Formlabs. “With the help of 3D printing, prototypes can be developed much faster, but finished, fully functional parts can also be produced within a very short time.
“Especially nowadays it is even better not to have to rely on extensive supply chains, but to have the autonomy to manufacture such parts quickly in your own factory.”
3D printed connector for performing the engine leak test. Image via Formlabs.
Ford’s use of 3D printing
Ford has implemented 3D printing in its operation for several years and has filed a patent application for a process from 3D printed lightweight brake discs A few months later, Ford opened his Advanced Manufacturing Center in Detroit, bringing together 3D printing, collaborative robots, digital manufacturing, and augmented reality (AR). The company also launched 3D printed parts for its Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 sports car to save costs.
In 2019 carbon, the company behind it Digital light synthesis (DLS) technology that produces the first 3D-printed parts in production for Ford at Detroit North American International Motor Show (NAIAS), including surface parts of the HVAC lever arm, auxiliary plugs, and electric parking brake mounts. Meanwhile, Ford’s performance department announced that 3D printing was in progress.largest 3D metal printed part for a functioning vehicle in automotive history ”.
Most recently, Ford teamed up with leading 3D printer manufacturer EOS to fight wheel theft with a novel 3D printed locking wheel nut designed with a driver’s voice.
3D printed prototype of the battery system connector. Image via Formlabs.
The form 3L
Formlabs launched its large format 3D printer. the form 3Lin April 2019, powered by the company’s new Low Force Stereolithography (LFS) technology. Last year Formlabs released the latest version of the Form 3L, which has been optimized for applications in the fields of shoes, industry and medicine due to an improved construction volume. Ford’s body and assembly plant in Valencia has already used Formlabs’ Form 3 desktop 3D printer to develop high-quality prototypes that are very similar to the final product.
The Form 3L has a print volume of 33.5 x 20 x 30 cm and is used by Ford’s body and assembly plant in Valencia to make the plastic caps that are used for the engine vacuum tests. 3D printing has been used in all phases of the production process, from design to prototyping to manufacturing the final product. The plastic caps had to be able to seal tightly around the tool during the engine vacuum test, but also withstand the low pressure environment. 3D printing was chosen as the best manufacturing method for this job as Ford only needed 1,000 caps.
“It was the first time for us that 3D printing has been used for this purpose, but we are very pleased with the result,” said Carlos Cambralla, Reliability and Maintenance Engineer at Ford Motor Company in Valencia. “Sometimes we needed the caps the next day, so it was important to make them as soon as possible.”
By producing the caps in-house instead of external suppliers, the process also became more cost-effective, and Ford was able to keep assembling the caps throughout.
Elsewhere, Ford has also used SLA 3D printing to replace broken pushbuttons on electronic devices with Formlabs’ transparent clear resin that allows the operator to see the internal LEDs. The Valencia plant has 3D printed nearly 100 different parts and has become a useful addition to Ford’s manufacturing operations.
Repair of keyboards with translucent material. Image via Formlabs.
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The picture shown shows a 3D printed connector for performing the engine leak test. Image via Formlabs.