|Advanced 3D print technology is used in the development of Ford vehicles including the new Ford GT SuperCar. The 3D printing can deliver prototypes in hours, enabling designers and engineers to test and refine new designs and innovations.|
Printed prototype parts for the Ford GT included the steering wheel, paddle shifts and door controls. In addition, the new Ford Mondeo Vignale’s front grille was also 3D printed via Ford’s 3D Shop.
For customers, they also have the best reasons to add a 3D printer to their Christmas list as the 3D printing technology can now be used at home to render variants of some of Ford’s most desirable cars, such as the Ford GT, Mustang and Focus RS. The three variants were completely rendered with the assistance of 3D printing during the crucial initial part of development. Customers who wish to try out the 3D printing themselves are advised to check out the Ford 3D Store, which offers the first automaker authorized one-stop store for 3D-printable files. The store provides tools for customers to print their very own customized Ford GT, as well as other Ford vehicle templates (up to 1,000 variants) like; the Fiesta ST, Focus ST and F-150 Raptor.
Ford uses 3D printing to reduce development time through the production of prototype parts that enable designers and engineers to quickly test and refine different approaches. Traditional prototyping methods require special tools and are generally time consuming.
For the Ford GT, designers used laser 3D printing techniques to help create the F1-style steering wheel with integrated driver controls and the transmission paddle-shift controls. Engineers also printed key lightweight structural components for the upward-swinging doors.
Since the acquisition of their 3rd printing machine in 1988, Ford printers have rendered about 500,000 3D printed parts for various variants.
Here’s what takes place to bring a vehicle design to life: The first step is a sketch produced by the design team, followed by a scale model being rendered by the clay modellers. The clay model is then made into a full-size version and thereafter, digital sculptors create a model, with the help of CAD (computer-aided design). While some parts are worked in clay, more complex or detailed items are mostly developed digitally and often 3D printed, which is where Rapid Prototype teams at Ford’s Dunton Technical Center in Essex and at its European headquarters in Germany come into play.
Rapid Prototyping helps to evaluate the design and uses one of a number of techniques to create the piece they are working on, including 3D printing. The latter requires CAD software that “slices” parts into paperthin layers that can be built up into a 3D printed prototype. After printing, excess material is dissolved away and the part can be finished by sanding or painting. The completed part is then available to the design studio or test facility.
The Ford GT and Mondeo Vignale benefit from the 3D printing and Rapid Prototyping tremendously. Ford GT is a confirmed participant in next season’s WEC (World Endurance Championship), while the Mondeo’s design gets several 3D rendering updates from the hexagonal upper front grille to the 19-inch wheels and dual exhausts with polished aluminium surrounds.
For the time being, Ford is collaborating with Carbon3D in the U.S. to research future rapid prototyping and small manufacturing program capabilities. The partnership is leading the development of future 3D print resins capable of supporting the loads, high temperatures and severe vibrations associated with vehicle tests.