The motoring industry is a constant source of innovation, with regular developments across technology, design and safety. 3D printing is one of the latest trends set to make a significant impact and the effects could be ground-breaking.
3D printing is a technique where a physical object is created from a digital model by printing thin layers of material on top of one another.
Here are some of the ways it could make the motoring industry more efficient, safe and cost-effective:
While 3D printing is not yet efficient enough for high-volume manufacturing, the ability to develop prototype parts more quickly, create custom parts for drivers, or make crucial parts for smaller run performance vehicles, means it could start allowing some models to get to market quicker than standard vehicle manufacturing procedures.
Designing a complicated new part and then waiting months for prototype tooling to be produced could also become a thing of the past, as 3D printing is starting to create quicker, more cost-effective solutions for engineers too.
One of the most important factors to address in the automotive industry is safety, and there are elements to 3D printing that have the potential to improve this. As the 3D components are designed using computer programmes, the consistency of production is greater than working with sheet metals, which could help to reduce future vehicle complications.
Bodywork can be more easily replicated, so an owner could potentially purchase a new shell more quickly with no discernible difference to the original.
Simplifying vehicle manufacturing
Many manufacturers are using 3D printing to create single, large body parts. The LM3D Swim is a prime example of this, as the car is created using less than 50 individual parts, compared to a traditional vehicle which could have over 30,000 parts.
The relative simplicity in design and fewer parts could mean issues will be more easily rectifiable, both in terms of parts manufacture and fitting. The simplicity of generating replacements and additions is already being tested by Ford, as it continues to investigate the effectiveness of creating large parts and components using 3D printing.
Millions of components are sitting in stock warehouses around the world, waiting to be supplied as a spare part. By printing new parts, automakers can reduce logistics and warehouse storage costs and produce complex components at low volumes. Imagine the savings by storing parts such as covers, spring caps, wiring ducts and mountings, digitally instead of physically and building them on-demand.
This potential is already recognised in America as Daimler Trucks, the world’s largest truck manufacturer, has been using 3D printing in its spare part production supply.
3D printing for racing advantage
Formula 1 teams originally bought into 3D prototyping to reduce development times. More iterations, more quickly don’t always reduce costs for race teams, but if it translates to saving even a millisecond on the track, the investment is justifiable to them.
The Lotus F1 team uses plastic 3D printing processes for concept development, functional prototypes and wind-tunnel models. The time saved is fundamental to the development timeline and 3D printers have allowed its teams to downsize Ford’s machine shops too.
The warning comes as specialist insurer, Warranty Direct, discloses which parts fail most often between June and August.
The UK’s relatively warm, dry summer climes appear to hasten axle and suspension failures (accounting for more than a quarter of Warranty Direct claims), engine cooling breakdowns (9.35%) and major internal engine problems (9.16%), resulting in repair bills as high as £7,239.
The average summertime repair bill is 10% higher than in winter and more than 4 in ten motorists will make a claim between June and August, compared to 36% during the colder months.
Last year, four of the five most expensive repair bills occurred between June and August.
The parts most likely to fail during June-August
Part of Car Proportion of claims (%) Axle & Suspension25.392 Engine Cooling System9.353 Major Engine fault9.164 Braking System5.365 Steering System4.776 Battery4.647 Manual Transmission4.638 Air Conditioning4.629 Turbo3.6110 Ignition System3.58
Overall, the 10 components identified by Warranty Direct as most likely to cause a breakdown in the summer account for over 75% of claims during that period.
Brake and steering components are the next most likely items to fail during the summer – though equally susceptible in the winter – followed by the battery, transmission and ignition system.
Unsurprisingly, more air-conditioning malfunctions surface as temperatures climb, while turbochargers round off the top 10.
Duncan McClure Fisher of Warranty Direct said: “Cars are complex and sensitive to the environment they are subjected to.
“In these straightened times, anything a motorist can do to mitigate motoring costs, or at least make them more predictable, is worthwhile. Maintenance and a degree of mechanical sympathy make a difference, but often breakdowns just happen.”
Warranty Direct cover starts from as little as £15 a month. All policies protect against wear & tear, failures caused by uninsured parts and failures found during a service or MOT.
A new car is the worst investment most people will ever make. A £15,000 car will lose around half its value in three years. If you borrow the money to buy the car at 7.7% interest it will cost you an extra £1,847. That’s a total of £9,347 – all out of taxed income. Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) can cost even more, and there are limits on mileage and expensive penalties should you want to change the vehicle early.
The £9,347 loss on a new vehicle would be enough to pay the interest on a £100,000 mortgage for nearly two years. Cash strapped home owners could use this cash to avoid losing their home when their low cost fixed rate mortgage deal ends.
The car has become both a status symbol and a ‘must have’ social accessory with an increasing number of motorists indulging in expensive cars on finance to impress friends and neighbours. With some mortgage deals set to rise by as much as 40% – many over financed motorists will no longer have a neighbour to impress.
Mail Order specialists, Car Parts Direct claim buying a three year old vehicle or keeping your existing car is financially the most cost efficient way to run a reliable vehicle.
Mark Cornwall of Car Parts Direct said, “Cars are reliable for at least 10 years providing they are serviced. Items such as brakes cost very little. Even the more expensive parts that could fail such as shock absorbers, drive shafts or a steering rack rarely cost more than a couple of hundred pounds – this is peanuts compared to financing a new vehicle.”
Car Parts Direct claims a motorist thinking of buying a £15,000 new car could save themselves more than £250 every month by buying at three years or by keeping their existing vehicle – for most home owners, that’s enough to stay clear of the mortgage debt trap. Motorists can find advice on how to save on vehicle servicing and repairs by visiting www.carparts-direct.co.uk
Researchers compared the cost of new parts on a selection of four-year-old vehicles from the UK’s top ten selling manufacturers. Prices were gathered from franchised dealers, independent garages and high street motor accessory retailers on six common parts: starter motor, air-con compressor, wheel bearing, alternator, shock absorber and radiator.
By shopping around, motorists could save over £395 (169 percent) on an air-con compressor for a Mercedes E-Class if bought over the counter instead of at franchised dealer. In another case, a replacement wheel bearing for a Honda CRV cost 517 percent more from the dealer than the £21.88 charge from a motor accessory retailer.
The service and repair industry is worth over £10 billion annually.
Table Illustrating Frequency Of Failure According To Warranty Direct
|Model||Part||Franchised Dealer||Independent Garage||Retailer||Price Difference|
|Honda CRV||Wheel Bearing||£135.13||£116.33||£21.88||517%|
|Vauxhall Astra||Wheel Bearing||£145.70||£111.63||£25.26||476%|
|VW Golf||Air Con||£528.75||£450.31||£169.42||212%|
|Mercedes E Class||Air Con||£630.00||£432.13||£234.04||169%|
|Peugeot 306||Shock Absorber||£79.43||£56.40||£21.88||263%|
|Ford Focus||Starter Motor||£191.58||£129.25||£91.85||108%|
|Toyota Previa||Shock Absorber||£68.29||£80.82||£16.94||303%|
The four-year-old cars analysed by Warranty Direct engineers would no longer be covered by the manufacturer’s traditional three-year aftersales warranty. “For anyone who has owned a car from new, this is the point when you really start paying for everything that goes wrong, and realise that it pays hugely to shop around,” advises Duncan McClure Fisher of Warranty Direct.
Motor accessory retailers proved to be the cheapest source for more than 8 out of 10 parts with an average saving of 65 percent. Franchised dealers and independent garages were equally cheapest in 9 percent of cases respectively.
Alarmingly, the gap between the cheapest and most expensive source was more than double for nearly half of the parts compared.
McClure Fisher adds: “Although there are still some dramatic disparities, some franchised dealers have started to recognise the need to slash prices on older vehicles in order to retain custom so it’s worth trying to haggle with them.” For example, franchised VW dealers were cheaper than independent garages on 5 out of the 6 parts analysed, yet Mercedes could only compete on one.