December '17

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8 THE SHOP DECEMBER 2017 W ho knew that three-dimensional printing, which seemed like sci- ence fiction just 20 years ago, was only the beginning—merely the seed of a tech- nological revolution that would fundamen- tally change how things are made. Already, additive manufacturing (AM), which encompasses a range of similar tech- nologies, is a multi-billion-dollar industry, growing not only as a business but in the lit- eral size and variety of things it can produce. For now, much of that production is for military or aerospace use, and therefore either classified or at least carefully guarded. Automotive applications, representing maybe 10 percent of the AM industry at best, are mainly confined to the similarly secre- tive realm of high-end racing. So specific examples that can be cited in print are mad- deningly rare—although we did uncover a few, which we will describe later on. "The unique speed at which motor- sport happens—with its rapid develop- ment, testing, data gathering, making new parts and re-testing—makes it the perfect proving ground for our technology," says Jim Vurpillat, marketing director at Stra- tasys, which manufactures 3D printing equipment based in Eden Prairie, Min- nesota. From there, most of our experts agree, AM is likely to spread to the custom-car aftermarket, and eventually to OE produc- tion automobiles as well. THE STATE OF THE ART That's largely because "the cost is coming down, and material properties are improving," notes Eric Miller, prin- cipal and co-owner of Phoenix Analysis & Design Technologies (PADT) Inc. in Tempe, Arizona, "so we are seeing more and more parts produced with 3D printing. The technology is used in three ways. The first is for prototyping components—from turbochargers to aerodynamic add-ons, our customers use 3D printing to make proto- type parts to test fit, form and function." The second use is tooling, as "3D printing is perfect for making fixtures and molds." By John F. Katz If you're still watching for the manufacturing revolution, you've already missed it. 8 THE SHOP DECEMBER 2017 McLaren uses Stratasys 3D equipment to manufacture composite ductwork for its race cars. (Photo courtesy Stratasys)

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