Additive manufacturing has become an integral part of the production process in many industries. From rapid and cost-effective prototyping to the production of final components, 3D printing offers companies a flexible manufacturing process with many advantages. These include, for example, the great freedom of geometric shape and the elimination of long transport routes. However, for manufacturers to exploit the full potential of the technology, it is necessary to identify the ideal process parameters. Fraunhofer IAPT claims to have found a way to reduce the cost and weight of manufacturing a car door hinge using additive manufacturing, thereby opening the door to mass production.
The Fraunhofer Research Institute for Additive Manufacturing Technologies (Fraunhofer IAPT) recently clarified the importance of optimization measures. Through end-to-end optimization of the additive value chain, it might be possible to influence both the technical properties and the costs of the finished component. Using a case study, the institute determined step-by-step the variables influencing the component costs of a door suspension for a sports car.
An optimized process opens the door to series production
First, the experts analyzed the component using the software tool from 3D Spark, a Fraunhofer spin-off, and determined the cost-optimal orientation of the component for 3D printing during of the design definition. The result was compared with the additively manufactured component without optimization. The result: a saving of 15%, resulting from the optimal use of installation space and a reduction in post-processing. However, the research team was not satisfied with this result. The geometry of the door hinge components was therefore optimized using force flow simulation, and a basic shape was selected that reduced weight by 35%, reducing the need for additional 20% materials and printing time. With the identification of the appropriate material and the optimized design of the support structure, an additional 20% was achieved compared to 3D printed door hinges without optimization.
Fraunhofer IAPT states that additional costs were reached in adjusting the parameters of the AF process. Thus, the optimized hinge would be globally 80% cheaper to manufacture. The value would break down as follows: optimizing orientation and structure and reducing support could reduce costs by 45%, while optimizing material selection, speed settings and maximizing utilization in the AF process could reduce costs by an additional 35%. With the case study, the installation aims to demonstrate that the use of additive manufacturing can already be used profitably in large series of up to 5,000 parts. The results of the systematic cost reduction of the articulated arm should be transferable to a wide range of automotive components.
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*Cover photo credits: Fraunhofer IAPT