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March 6, 2017

Ford small-scale trials 3D printing for larger parts

Small-scale 3D printing of small components was on show at Ford's UK technical centre at Dunton, Essex when just-auto visited a few years ago so it's no surprise to learn the automaker now is exploring how large one-piece car parts could be printed for prototyping and future production vehicles.

Small-scale 3D printing of small components was on show at Ford's UK technical centre at Dunton, Essex when just-auto visited a few years ago so it's no surprise to learn the automaker now is exploring how large one-piece car parts could be printed for prototyping and future production vehicles.

It said it was the first automaker to pilot the Stratasys Infinite Build 3D printer, which is capable of printing car parts of practically any shape or length, and reckons the system could be a breakthrough for vehicle manufacturing, providing a more efficient and affordable way to produce tooling, prototype parts, or components at lower volumes.

The process produces lighter parts which may help improve fuel efficiency.

"With the technology, we are now able to print large tools, fixtures, and components, making us more nimble in design iterations," said Ellen Lee, the automaker's technical leader for additive manufacturing research. "[We have] early access to Stratasys' new technology in order to help steer the development of large scale printing for automotive applications and requirements."

The new 3D print system is located at the Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn.

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