Ford has released CAD files that will allow owners of the 2022 Maverick able to 3D print customized components for their pickup trucks. If all goes well, this experiment in DIY could be a good entry point for a major brand to explore consumer 3D printing. Otherwise, it will have been a brief marketing exercise/field test for whether or not there exists a consumer base for 3D printed accessories.
When it was released, the 2022 Ford Maverick tried to entice DIY customers by making the compact truck somewhat customizable. This meant that a couple of 2x4s could be configured in the bed to either maximize capacity or organize storage. What’s more, it came with a hybrid powertrain to achieve the best fuel economy of any truck on the market, while also maintaining the ability to tow up to 4,000 pounds.
Among the DIY-friendly features is the Ford Integrated Tether System (FITS), a slot that allows drivers to develop custom items that can be slipped into the cabin of their trucks. This could be cupholders, storage devices, trash cans, or essentially anything a maker might imagine. To help open the floodgates for homemade accessories, Ford has released CAD files for the FIT system, including for the center console and under the seat.
Because Ford promised the eventual release of these models before the vehicle was even released, online model repositories already been filled with 3D printable files for the Maverick. This includes cup holders, phone mounts, a Nintendo switch holder, and more. Drivers are even making their own FITS slots for elsewhere in the truck, such as in the dashboard cubby. For Maverick owners without a 3D printer, there are FITS accessories available on eBay and Etsy. You can also 3D print the devices at a local library, makerspace, or through a 3D printing service.
The experiment feels a bit like it should belong in 2014, when brands like Hoover began putting CAD files for their products on Thingiverse. The consumer 3D printing hype bubble burst shortly after, almost as though the rise of MakerBot and its ilk was a trial balloon or an advertising operation on behalf of the industrial giants like HP and GE so they could create the 3D printing market for themselves.
Now that industrial 3D printing is here to stay, is Ford serious about this initiative? After all, the company does say that it will be using additive manufacturing to mass produce metal parts for an upcoming car. If so, we could see the establishment of a true sector for 3D printed aftermarket components, as 3DPrint.com Executive Editor Joris Peels has been demanding for some time.
This would coincide with the emergence of Replique, a 3D printing service provider that wants to produce spare parts on demand. With the backing of the world’s largest chemical company, BASF, it’s hard to believe that Replique won’t succeed. BASF is extremely serious about additive, so it could very well will into existence a market for 3D printed spares.
At the moment, the leading Replique customer to offer 3D printed replacement parts is German appliance maker Miele. However, if a car component manufacturer like MAHLE were to take on Replique’s services, we could see the worlds of custom accessories and 3D printable spares converge. This could lead to virtual inventories of on-demand replacement parts, which could lead to distributed manufacturing of traditional end components, which could ultimately lead to a circular economy. Will all of that happen in time to save the planet and post-industrial society?
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