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Hyundai to Drive Electric Vehicle Manufacturing with 3D Printing

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As nations attempt to address climate change concerns with increased production of electric vehicles (EVs), manufacturers are exploring opportunities to advance their operations overall by deploying new fabrication technologies. This includes Hyundai Motor Group, which is partnering with Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore)  to explore the use of “Industry 4.0” technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and 3D printing, in manufacturing EVs.

As Executive Editor Joris Peels has been outlining in his “Startup Accelerator, Singapore” series, the city-state, driven with significant help from NTU Singapore, has made itself an exciting hub for additive manufacturing (AM). In turn, businesses such as South Korean Hyundai have headed to the tropical island to advance the use of the technology for their own applications. In October 2020, the auto company conducted a virtual groundbreaking ceremony for the Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Centre in Singapore (HMGICS). NTU has become the first academic research partner for the HMGICS program.

(L-R) Hyundai Motor Group Senior Vice President Hong Bum Jung, President & Chief Innovation Officer of Hyundai Motor Group, Youngcho Chi, NTU President Professor Subra Suresh and NTU Senior Vice President (Research) Professor Lam Khin Yong were in attendance at the signing ceremony held at NTU on 1 Sep 2021. Image courtesy of NTU Singapore.

With NTU Singapore, Hyundai hopes to establish “state-of-the-art factories of the future” beginning with four pilot projects dedicated to AI and additive manufacturing (AM) beginning this September. One project will see machine learning developed for vehicle image processing, in which an AI-driven image processing sensor is used to detect defects and anomalies during the production of battery-powered EVs. Another will see how 3D printing can be integrated into EV manufacturing, such as for the customization of auto parts and overall smart factory operation. In the future, Hyundai envisions customers ordering vehicles tailored to their own sense of style.

A rendering of the Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Centre in Singapore. Image courtesy of Hyundai.

A rendering of the Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Centre in Singapore. Image courtesy of Hyundai.

Upon signing the collaboration agreement, NTU President Professor Subra Suresh said, “The partnership between NTU and Hyundai Motor Group provides one more example of how our close collaboration with industry plays an important role in developing relevant solutions to address real world issues.  This is in line with the NTU 2025 strategic plan, which aims to address some of the grand challenges facing humanity. This collaboration with Hyundai Motor Group will build on NTU’s core strengths, in areas such as additive manufacturing, AI, autonomous and electric vehicles, and big data to bring about benefits to the automotive industry, Singapore and the global society.”

President & Chief Innovation Officer of Hyundai Motor Group, Youngcho Chi said, “HMGICS aims to build an ecosystem for the future mobility industry based on open innovation. We are going to strengthen collaboration with NTU and develop advanced solutions to revolutionise future mobility value chain going forward.”

With completion scheduled for the end of 2022, the HMGICS is located just a five-minute drive from the NTU Smart Campus. The partnership will see future collaborations take place geared toward training new talent for the automotive sector. This includes 3D printing competitions dedicated to the use of new technologies in automotive engineering, thus driving students to become interested in EV production and envision the future of transportation. At the same time, the competitions will demonstrate the advantages of 3D printing for EV production. Other benefits will include joint educational seminars between Hyundai and NTU professors.

Like all auto manufacturers, Hyundai has been using 3D printing for some time, however, efforts at the company became much more serious over the past decade in part due to more serious investment by the Korean government. In 2017, this meant launching a new design studio at its R&D Center in Namyang, geared toward cutting product design cycles by half. This was followed by a similar initiative by its parts and service arm, Hyundai Mobis, in 2018.

The 20201 IONIQ Electric hatchback. Image courtesy of Hyundai.

Since it 2014, when Hyundai alongside Volkswagen, Volvo, Renault, Jeep, Citroën and Fiat were caught cheating emissions tests, the brand began highlighting sustainability with a IONIQ electric vehicle division. With IONIQ, the company hopes to sell one million electric vehicles annually by 2025. As it reaches toward this goal, we can expect Hyundai turning more to technology like AI and 3D printing. Perhaps following moves by Volkswagen and Ford, perhaps we’ll see metal binder jet parts wind up in production EVs by the middle of the decade.

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