Ford explores 3D printing for production part manufacturing

3D printing has been used in the auto industry for many years as a “rapid prototyping” tool, allowing engineers to see and touch a real part during the design process. Now, Ford is looking to incorporate 3D printing into the process of making final, production parts. By doing so, the company hopes to shorten design iteration time and save money.

The automaker has been working with technology known as Continuous Liquid Interface Production, or CLIP, from the startup company Carbon. CLIP promises to dramatically speed up the build process compared to traditional 3D printing, thereby overcoming a major impediment to its use in production manufacturing.

The Ford team has worked to overcome challenges with material durability and the ability of parts to withstand wide temperature swings. The research program is still in its early days, but has already been used to make elastomer grommets for the Ford Focus Electric and also to address engineering issues that have arisen on other programs.

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