The latest model of the Honda Pilot was developed without prototype models. It was all about saving time and, of course, money.
Engineers replaced much of the work they once did with physical models by conducting computer simulations to begin the development process, but 3D printing helped speed up the process as well.
Honda says printing a transparent instrument panel gave them the most effective way to visualize how wiring would be routed through the dashboard, and the method reduced the number of die changes the finished product required. Using the printed model simplified the installation paths for the wiring, and that saved fabrication time. Engineers were prompted to redesign of the entire center console and other components once they saw the layout through the transparent panel.
Jeff Tomko, the president of Honda Manufacturing Alabama, says the new methodology made the 2016 Pilot easier to assemble. He says it not only improves quality, but makes it easier on the line workers tasked with assembling the car.
“We’ve brought it to production in a virtual world without any prototypes,” said Tomko.
The latest version of 2016 Honda Pilot also earned a top safety rating, and the company says that rating is a vindication of the design process for their SUV which relied heavily on computer modeling and 3D printing. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) ultimately announced that the 2016 Pilot earned their Top Safety Pick+ rating – and that’s the highest rating available.
Much of the speed of the process and the efficiency improvement came from virtual processes. Tomko says that when a physical part or tool was required for test assembly or troubleshooting, Honda 3D printed the necessary pieces. The savings amounted to millions of dollars — and much of that money would have been spent creating physical prototypes and the tooling needed to fabricate them.
The Pilot is the first Honda vehicle – at least in North America – developed entirely with virtual processes. Honda did develop their Stepwgn virtually, but that process took place in Japan.
And this was much more than simply a test case as Tomko says the results were impressive.
“This is the new corporate direction,” Tomko says.
Last year, Honda Motor Co., Ltd. released 3D data for the exterior configuration of a list of concept models from the company’s past. That data is offered through a Creative Commons licenses stup, and can be downloaded from the Honda 3D Design Archives. Honda says the initiative was created to identify new ways of communicating beyond the conventional framework between manufacturers and users, and the company says they hope the project will inspire the next generation of automobile designers and engineers.
Do you know of any other auto makers who have turned the process of designing and developing their vehicles upside down using AM and 3D printing? Let us know in the Honda Pilot 3D Printed forum thread on 3DPB.com.