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Ford advancing 3D sand printing

Ford is embracing the use of “3D printing”—additive manufacturing—in its design work. Many of the components for the Ford 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine in the all-new Transit Van (earlier post) were developed with the aid of 3D rapid manufacturing. Cast aluminum oil filtration adaptors, exhaust manifolds, differential carrier, brake rotors, oil pan, differential case casting and even rear axles were prototyped with the technology, specifically utilizing selective laser sintering, stereolithography and 3D sand casting.

Ford is also advancing a new variation on this technology: 3D printing with sand allows for the creation of casting patterns and cores with multiple printers in-house.

The technology enables engineers to quickly create a series of evolving testable pieces with slight variations; this results in improved efficiency and time to market, reduced time spent waiting on iterations and increased cost savings.

Examples of 3D sand printing include:

  • C-MAX, Fusion Hybrid: Rotor supports, transmission cases, damper housings and end covers for the new HF35 hybrid transmission built at Van Dyke Transmission Plant in suburban Detroit.

  • Escape: EcoBoost four-cylinder engines in the 2013 Escape built at Louisville Assembly Plant.

  • Explorer: Brake rotors for the 2011 Explorer built in Chicago. The rotors were modified late in development to address a brake noise issue discovered in durability testing.

  • F-150: Exhaust manifolds for the 3.5-liter EcoBoost built in Cleveland and used in F-150.



The auto companies, if they want to preserve their margins with OEM replacement parts, need to be careful with this technology. I recently called a dealer about replacing an interior door panel for my truck --- price: $750....which is an insane markup for something that should realistically cost $100-$200. 3D printing should bring costs down in the future because no replacement parts will ever be kept on hand - they will simply be produced on demand. However, the automakers will no doubt figure out a way to keep the parts spec software proprietary so they can still charge 400-500% premiums on what the parts should cost.


$750 might not be so bad if they were REQUIRED to stock all such parts regardless of demand; but most you have to wait for delivery.


etc. .

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