The automotive industry includes a number of companies involved in the conception, design, manufacturing, marketing and sales of automobiles. It is one of the world’s most important industries, particularly in countries like Japan, South Korea and Germany. Additive manufacturing, also called 3D printing is a manufacturing technique which uses a process called layering to create products of that material. It was first invented in the 1980’s and is beginning to see widespread adoption in the 21st century. 3D printing in the automotive market can be truly transformational in its application. It can be used to print car parts, accessories, create new concept vehicles and even fine-tune vehicles to a customer specific requirement. Until very recently, 3D printing could only be used to print certain parts of the car and was only used for rapid prototyping. Now, it is possible to create an entire vehicle from scratch in less than 2 days!
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3D printing in the Automotive Market Drivers
One of the main drivers of 3D printing in the automotive market is supply chain optimization. 3D printing dramatically improves market responsiveness of automobile companies to changing customer tastes and preferences. It enables them to produce multiple product variations with very little cost increase. It substantially reduces scrap, material usage and helps manufacturers reduce their carbon footprint. This is absolutely critical for an industry which unfortunately creates too much of both air and noise pollution. Greater pressure put on companies by the government to go green will also spur adoption of 3D printing in the automotive market. Intense competition amongst manufacturers to create lighter, smarter and more fuel efficient vehicles will also play a major role for implementing 3D printing in the automotive market. 3D printing helps companies create customer specific automotive products, which will be key to maintaining their loyalty in the future.
3D printing in the Automotive Market Restraints
There are several restraints pertaining to 3D printing in the automotive market with a major one being cost. The automotive industry is capital intensive with substantial investment required for designing, developing, testing and selling automobiles. Hence, companies look to reduce their overheads wherever possible. 3D printers cost millions of dollars for each unit, which can pose a major roadblock to domestic and smaller players in the industry. Another problem is the limited materials used in additive manufacturing. Conventional manufacturing allows automobile companies to experiment with a wide variety of metals and alloys. However, 3D printing has not yet evolved to that level and these materials are also extremely expensive at present. Parts produced through 3D printing in the automotive market sometimes show variability due to thermal stress or other voids. This is a major issue in an industry which needs to mass-produce components with the highest standards of quality and reliability.
3D printing in the Automotive Market Key Regions
The largest automotive manufacturers in the world today are China, the U.S., Japan, South Korea, Germany and India. The U.S. is currently the largest market for 3D printing in the automotive market due to the oversize presence of Detroit in shaping the global automobile industry in the 21st century. There is also an awareness of new technologies and an eagerness to adopt them. However, the EU and countries like China and India are expected to surpass the U.S. within the next decade because of the reduction in costs, increasing awareness of 3D printing and also a strong focus on automobile manufacturing by the respective governments. Thus, the scope for 3D printing in the automotive market seems very bright indeed.
3D printing in the Automotive Market Key Market Players
Some of the key players involved in 3D printing in the supply chain market are 3D Systems, Koenigsegg, HP Development Company, Local Motors, Safran Turbomeca, Audi, Blade, Honda, Hankook Tires, Ai Design, Optomec , and Stratasys.
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