The automobile industry has been using 3D-printing for a long time to produce prototypes. Functional components are also being manufactured more and more frequently for small-scale product lines. Among other things, 3D-printing opens up previously unprecedented design options for functional parts that improve performance in the respective application.
Spare parts are also produced by 3D-printing. The advantages are clear: they can be produced less expensively, especially for models that are no longer manufactured. Instead of maintaining facilities and tools as well as stocking the spare parts themselves for decades, manufacturers can replace defective parts individually using a local printer.
Various automobile manufacturers are already using 3D-printing to produce components for car interiors on a small scale or for spare parts such as air conditioning control covers and ventilation shafts. Vintage car owners are happy to be able to obtain spare parts produced on a 3D-printer. In the past, when parts of a collector’s vehicle were broken, an arduous and sometime fruitless search for remainder stock had to be conducted. Additive manufacturing allows the production of replacements that are true to the original.
The aircraft industry is also investing in the future of 3D printing. New structures and components are being developed that weigh much less than those produced by conventional processes and are just as functional if not more so. The lower weight resulting from the lighter materials might well lead to enormous savings on fuel, reducing environmental pollution. Standard aircraft components are already being produced individually in this way.
3D-printing procedures will drastically change the consumer goods market as we know it today. This can already been seen in the sports shoe sector. It is not just that shoe soles can be individually adjusted and tailor-made to requirements and the customer’s foot: the manufacturing processes are also changing. Currently, several months elapse between design and finished shoe on display in the shop. This would change if shoes were produced on 3D-printers. They would come out of the printer at the point of sales, allowing manufacturers to react more quickly to trends and individual customer wishes.
Reputed sports shoe manufacturers are already investing in production methods that involve 3D-printing. Batch production of shoes on the 3D-printer is still in its early stages. In a future scenario, however, customers might measure their feet, have an individual running profile made and a few hours later collect their perfectly fitting shoes from the shop. Made-to-measure production and personalization would be the new standard.