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Jaguar Land Rover explains what 3D printing is
The process of 3D printing can appear complex, as it uses a wide variety of machines and materials to create complicated three dimensional structures.
Here at Jaguar Land Rover, we have a group of experts with a vast amount of experience in 3D printing – the Additive Manufacturing team. They are well placed to answer the most commonly asked questions about 3D printing.
What is 3D printing?
3D printing is known in the industry as ‘additive manufacturing’. It is a process of joining materials layer-by-layer based on data from computer assisted design (CAD), and is an alternative to subtractive manufacturing methods such as milling, drilling, turning, eroding, or formative manufacturing methods like injection moulding.
What is 3D printing used for?
3D printing is a flexible technology which allows you to manufacture one-off individual components as well as batches of multiple parts. There are many uses for the technology across the world.
In the medical sector it is used for creating patient-specific implants and customised hearing aids, while a sportswear brand is creating optimised trainer sole geometry to give runners the best support and comfort. These would not be possible using traditional manufacturing methods.
Historically, the automotive industry has used the technology for prototyping, but motorsport and aerospace work with 3D printed parts to help improve performance and efficiency.
At Jaguar Land Rover 3D printing technology has been used to develop prototype parts. Engineering teams can test a printed component and make the changes to the design, before officially using it in production.
The technology is quickly evolving. Jaguar Land Rover is now able to 3D print parts for production cars, with the Jaguar XE SV Project 8 one of the first vehicles to use them. The team has also created a glove that will protect colleagues on the line from musculoskeletal disorders.
The Additive Manufacturing team has also been creating small runs of obsolete parts for older cars, such as the third row seat handle for the Land Rover Discovery Series 2.
The freedom of design is allowing Jaguar Land Rover to explore enhanced personalisation and customisation opportunities for its customers.
What things can be 3D printed?
Almost anything, however the most suitable parts are small and complex. Making these through traditional manufacturing practices may not be possible and/or too expensive.
There are many materials available, including polymers, metals, and others such as ceramics. In engineering, 3D printing is increasingly being used for creating silicone mould tools and sand casts from which parts can be economically formed, including large metal components.
What are the main 3D printing technologies?
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has acknowledged seven core 3D printing technologies. Jaguar Land Rover’s Additive Manufacturing team has explained them in simple terms.
Powder bed fusion – is the process of using heat to fuse powdered material, either polymer or metal, to form an object. It is relatively affordable and uses engineering grade materials. This technique was used to develop the 3D printed parts on the XE SV Project 8 and the Discovery Series 2’s squab handle.
Material jetting – uses inkjet print heads to eject droplets of material. It is often used by designers to mock-up ideas thanks to its ability to print in full colour.
Material extrusion – is the process of depositing material through a heated nozzle, which is often used to build large, functional prototype parts, and manufacturing aids.
Vat photopolymerisation – this technology was the first available in the 1980s. A bath of liquid material is cured with either a UV laser or a projected image. Primarily it is used for design mock-ups and non-functional prototypes, however new advances means the technology could be used to build production parts.
Binder jetting – depositing a binding agent onto a powdered material through a print head which is then typically cured with UV or heat.
Direct energy deposition – depositing a stream of material and melting it via a high energy source such as a laser. The material is often metal in wire or powder form. Normally it is used to repair parts rather than creating entire objects.
Sheet lamination – the bonding of pre-cut layers of sheet material. This can include wood, paper or metal.
Which 3D printing technologies does Jaguar Land Rover use?
Vat photopolymerisation was the first 3D printing technology acquired by Jaguar Land Rover over 25 years ago. It is often used by the team for building prototype parts which require a high quality surface finish.
Powder bed fusion followed soon after, and today has the highest output of any Additive Manufacturing technology used at Jaguar Land Rover. It allows the team to build relatively low-cost functional parts.
Around 20 years ago material jetting was adopted. This process allows the team to print in full colour with the ability to colour match, which is useful for printing head and tail light lenses, or dashboard trim.
At the same time, material extrusion was chosen for its capability to print good functional prototypes. The latest machines are capable of printing large geometry components from a wide range of materials, including temperature resistant polymers and composites.
What material does Jaguar Land Rover 3D print in?
Each additive manufacturing technology at Jaguar Land Rover uses a different type of material. Although expanding rapidly, the current portfolio of materials includes nylons, polyurethanes, epoxies, and composites, among others.
How long does it take to 3D print?
The 3D printing process alone can take from a few hours right up to 200 hours depending on the size of the machine and the number of parts printed in each batch.
After the parts are printed, they have to go through a variety of post-processing procedures, which can range from cooling, removal of support material or cleaning of the parts.
What are the biggest obstacles to 3D printing?
Piece cost – Primarily due to high material costs, often caused by a closed supply route.
Dimensional accuracy – 3D printing currently has more variation in it parts compared to a traditional tooled process. This means it is not always ideal when producing automotive components as they often have stringent tolerances they need to meet.
Awareness – 3D printing had various limitations in the past, such as poor mechanical properties. Many of these have been overcome and now companies can realise the potential benefits if parts are designed for additive manufacturing production from the outset.
Surface finish – To reach the same finish as traditionally tooled components, 3D printed parts need post process activity. Improvements to the 3D printing process have been made and surface textures can now be easily applied.