The drive for speed.
A subsidiary of Honda Group and headquartered in Tokyo, Honda Access manufactures accessories for cars, motorcycles and other items worldwide. One of its specialties is customizing accessories to local buyers’ preferences. Accessories play an important role in differentiating global sales; hence, the available accessories for any given Honda model range anywhere from two to three hundred items.
Accessories play an important role in differentiating global sales; hence, the available accessories for any given Honda model range anywhere from two to three hundred items.
“We have to take into account a range of considerations such as regional driver preferences and climate and road surface conditions when designing the accessories, offering distinct specifications according to a country’s needs and demand,” comments Hiroshi Takemori, senior researcher from the product planning department.
“Take the CR-V, for example. In the United States, the vehicle is marketed to parents who use the vehicle to pick up and drop off their children; but in China, it is positioned as the ultimate SUV and a status symbol. Since the vehicle body is built to the same standards worldwide, we use the accessories to give the car a little regional flavor.”
From CNC machines to 3D printers.
Honda Access wanted to find a way to make all that customization more efficient. The company was using CNC machines in its product development cycle for trials and testing, but that process entailed excessive effort and cost. Honda Group introduced 3D printing to Honda Access in 2006 as a trial project. Designers were invited to explore the possibilities of the technology for auto parts and car accessories. “There was a lot of buzz at the meetings about the possibilities of 3D printers and enabling the realization of ideas in a very short time,” Takemori recalled. He cited prototyping, fit and functional testing, and unsupervised builds as key benefits.
Customization in a cost-effective approach.
“We realized that 3D printing would be extremely advantageous for product development.”Honda Access later purchased an Objet Eden 500V 3D printer for its accuracy, speed, build size, easy support material removal and its ability to create fine details — factors critical to the company’s product verification process. Honda Access has since realized so many additional advantages to 3D printer ownership.
The new 3D printer helped it improve its customization services. “3D printers allow us to synchronize the development schedule with that of the vehicle itself and create the accessory parts simultaneously, improving both the quality and speed of the prototype process,” comments Takemori.