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How additive manufacturing may just save automotive aftermarket spare parts.

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Jaclyn Schindler Adhoh - March 31, 2022
Jaclyn Schindler Adhoh - March 31, 2022

In a September 2021 earnings call, AutoZone, Inc. CEO William Rhodes stated, “This is the most difficult supply-chain environment that I have ever seen.” According to Rhodes, AutoZone is running “the lowest level of in-stock that [he] can ever remember” (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-10-16/car-parts-shortages-are-hitting-u-s-garages-creating-weeks-long-delays).

Whether it be harsh weather conditions, an accident or standard wear-and-tear, automotive manufacturers and mechanics are struggling to provide spare parts for customers in time. Due to COVID delays, there has been a global semiconductor shortage which derailed the production of new cars. With people forced to maintain their older vehicles or invest in used cars, acquiring spare parts is essential.

Delayed repairs are leaving people without means of transportation while they must cover the ongoing expense of rental cars. In addition to customers, the lack of spare parts is negatively affecting automotive shops and resulting in loss of income.

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Conduct a quick Google search with the terms “automotive spare parts delay” and the number of different areas affected worldwide is shocking. From Kent in the UK to Ontario and even Minnesota, cars sit for months out of commission while mechanics wait (not so patiently) to finally receive the required spare parts.

But there is a light at the end of this never-ending supply chain tunnel: additive manufacturing.

The H350™ 3D printer powered by SAF™ technology is the answer to the automotive industry’s prayers. Created for short-run, serial production of 1,000 – 20,000 parts, the H350 maintains high part consistency, complexities and geometric accuracy. Automotive applications printed with the H350 and High Yield PA11 polymer powder are impact-resistant and functional.  

In comparison to traditional injection molding, lead times can be reduced from 12–20 weeks down to just a few days before beginning production. Additionally, in a day or two, a build of spare automotive parts can be ready for distribution. The parking sensor housing below only takes 8.5 hours to produce 270 pieces.

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As supply chain challenges continue to plague the automotive industry, the H350 offers an effective solution that will allow spare parts to become just that… spare.   

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