It was just over two years ago that Stratasys introduced the multi-color, multi-material J750 3D printer, which the company described as a machine that would “shake up the world.” It certainly has shaken up the 3D printing industry, bringing new possibilities to everything from art to eyewear to medical models and more. Now the J750 is making its mark on the automotive industry via Audi.
At Audi’s Pre-Series Center in Ingolstadt, Germany, which has a dedicated Plastics 3D Printing Center, employees build physical models and prototypes for the company to evaluate new designs and concepts. Parts such as wheel covers, door handles, and radiator grills are molded and milled to demonstrate new designs. The Pre-Series Center has been using 3D printing as well, allowing the team to accelerate design verification and overcome the limitations of conventional prototyping processes.
With tail light covers, milling or molding is typically used, but that presents some challenges due to the multi-colored covers of the tail light housing. These individual color parts must be assembled, since they can’t be produced in one piece, and the assembly takes time, increasing lead time and delaying time to market.
The J750 3D printer, however, is capable of creating those multi-colored, transparent parts in one piece, eliminating the need for multiple steps as before. The printer offers over 500,000 color combinations, meaning that parts can be produced in multiple colors and textures that meet Audi’s strict requirements.
“Design is one of the most important buying decisions for Audi customers, therefore it’s crucial we adhere to supreme quality standards during the design and concept phase of vehicle development,” said Dr. Tim Spiering, Head of the Audi Plastics 3D Printing Center. “As a result, we need prototypes to have exact part geometries, no distortion and extremely high quality, as well as true-to-part color and transparency. The Stratasys J750 3D Printer will offer us a significant advantage, as it allows us to print the exact textures and colors our design defines. This is essential for getting design concepts approved for production. In terms of 3D printing transparent parts, I have not seen a comparable technology that meets our standards.
“Using the J750 for the prototyping of tail light covers, we will be able to accelerate our design verification process. We estimate time-savings of up to 50 percent by using this 3D print technique in our prototyping process of tail light covers.”
Dr. Spiering is head of a 24-member team that provides Audi’s plastics 3D printing expertise, advice and production. The company has been using Stratasys 3D printers for years, having bought its first in 2002. The division now has 10 polymer 3D printers, including several Stratasys FDM and PolyJet 3D printers.
“Audi is a prime example of how our unique full color, multi-material 3D printing technology can combine several design processes into one, rapidly accelerating development cycles,” said Andy Middleton, President EMEA, Stratasys. “If you extend the time-savings achieved by Audi on the tail lights to other parts of the vehicle, the overall impact on time-to-market can be huge. We’re excited to see how Audi continues to leverage our FDM and PolyJet technologies into new application areas to further increase efficiencies across its development process.”
By using the Stratasys J750 3D printer, Audi expects to reduced prototyping lead times by up to 50 percent.
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