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6 Ways 3D Printers Changed Automotive Manufacturing

Stratasys Staff Writer
Stratasys Staff Writer February 28, 2023
February 28, 2023

As a new age of electric vehicles unfolds, the automotive industry remains fiercely competitive worldwide.  Now with a greater emphasis on sustainability, the race to produce quality vehicles in a profitable way remains as challenging as ever. 

In addition, automotive manufacturers must balance efficiency, lean manufacturing, production costs, sustainability, and agile design processes. All are delicate facets of the industry and must be managed well.   

This can be challenging.   

Manufacturers seek tools and technology that helps them arrive at a delicate balance between these and many other factors, all the while producing products that meet strict quality requirements.   

Additive manufacturing is a very important tool to help manufacturers with this effort.  They represent an important technology link in this effort and continue to improve, develop, and help reinvent automotive manufacturing.  

Below are six ways 3D printing helps to change the landscape of automotive manufacturing.  

1. Rapid Prototyping 

Speed-to-market is a business attribute that can be the difference between success and failure in many industries, but especially the automotive industry. Product lifestyle management incorporates prototyping, and rapid prototyping shortens the design and development life cycle in automobile production.  

Legacy prototyping methods, such as machining or injection molding are expensive and soak up too much time to produce a single prototype.  

Additive manufacturing, however, does not.  

Stratasys, for example, is an industry leader in PolyJet 3D printers. These printers use materials suitable for cost-effective prototyping and automotive applications. PolyJet 3D printers enable rapid creation of prototypes in a matter of hours, allowing for faster testing, iteration, and design changes of automobile components and assemblies.  

Ultimately, this leads to more efficient and effective product development.

auto customize color

2. Improved Design 

Additive manufacturing and 3D printing allows automotive engineers to design and modify complex, organic shapes that would otherwise be too difficult (often impossible) to produce using traditional manufacturing methods.

By using the right additive technology, automotive manufacturers are empowered to go beyond traditional boundaries of automotive design and can produce new innovative vehicles. 

To learn which 3D printing technology to use for your automotive needs, download this Automotive Solution Guide!

3. Customized 3D Printed Parts

The ability to create highly customized parts is essential in automotive manufacturing. Such customization is not otherwise possible with traditional manufacturing methods which depend on legacy methods of mass production, outsourcing, long lead time, and higher cost. 

Radford Motors, for example, relied heavily on additive manufacturing in order to prototype and build the Radford Lotus Type 62-2 production vehicle. 3D printers enabled an agile development and production process so they could focus on high craftsmanship, customization and performance. 



4. Lightweight Materials 

The automotive industry is constantly trying to reduce the overall weight of its parts and designs. 3D printers enhance this effort by utilizing lightweight materials such as engineered plastics and composites.  

The result: a significant weight reduction in vehicles, improved fuel efficiency and reduced emissions, while maintaining an edge over competitors who may not be able to match those performance enhancements. 

5. Sustainability 

The automotive industry always seeks to manufacture with utmost efficiency. 3D printers, again, are right in line with such objectives. The flexible and versatile attributes of 3D printing help automotive manufacturers reduce their carbon footprint. When waste is reduced, and production is much more efficient, the overall manufacturing line becomes more sustainable.  

In addition, environmentally friendly materials may be tried and used, with less waste, and less energy. This contributes greatly to the overall carbon footprint of the manufacturing process. 3D printing is a huge contributor to the effort that almost every automobile manufacturer strives for nowadays.  

Traditional processes such as machining, however, often result in significant amounts of material waste.

6. Increased Efficiency 

The precise nature of 3D printing enables the production of automotive parts on-demand. This eliminates the need for large inventories of spare parts as the printer provides much greater self-sufficiency without requiring an inventory stock.  

The H350™ powered by SAF technology produces consistent automotive 3D printed parts which are accurate, cost-efficient and demonstrate strong mechanical capabilities. In fact, the H350 supports a high build capacity of up to 12%, optimizing series production of end-use parts.

This saves manufacturers time and money and reduces, if not eliminates, the risk of stock-outs of some parts, while maintaining the leanest inventory. 

These are just a few of the ways that the evolution of 3D printers has helped the automotive industry.  As each year passes, automotive technology increases and advances, continuously pushing for better products and technology with more capabilities.  

Best 3D Printers for Automotive Manufacturing

Find the Best 3D Printer for Your Automotive Manufacturing Needs

Download this solution guide to learn about the benefits additive manufacturing brings to each step of the automotive manufacturing process. Determine which 3D printing technology is best suited for your automotive manufacturing needs.

"In the context of the end-to-end manufacturing workflow, the level of time-saving with 3D printing isn’t merely improvement or progression, it’s transformational."