Ampower provides in-depth insight into metal 3D printing for automotive

Ampower, a consultancy firm
specializing in industrial additive manufacturing advice, has
published a insights report on the application of
powder bed fusion
(PBF) based metal 3D printing in

The report considers Laser Beam Melting (LBM) methods, as
provided by Concept Laser, EOS, Trumpf, Renishaw and SLM
Solutions, and Electron Beam Melting (EBM), which is

commercialized by Arcam

As a test automotive application, both methods are used in the
end to production of a tail pipe for a Porsche GT2 RS. The
parts and analayzed for their comparative effectiveness at each
stage of the process, (design, production, post processing

Benefits of a 3D printed tail pipe. Image via AmpowerBenefits of a 3D
printed tail pipe. Image via Ampower

Working out the weaknesses

Tail pipes are typically made by joining two sheets of metal
with a welding seam. When in use, this seam is the main point
of weakness for the tail pipe, and can lead to numerous
iterations before arriving at a final design.

3D printing can create a tail pipe in a single part, making it
an ideal alternative fabrication method for the component. In
redesigning the pipe for 3D printing, engineers can also
optimize the structure of the pipe’s inner shell, and give
customers the option of personally branding the piece. Rapid
fabrication also means that numerous designs can be tried in
shorter out amount of time.

As the most popular means of metal 3D printing, LBM is tested
against EBM to discover the strengths and weaknesses of each

Chart showing the number of LBM and EBM machines bought from market leaders between 2005 to 2017. Image via AmpowerChart showing the
number of LBM and EBM machines bought from market leaders between
2005 to 2017. Image via Ampower

3D printing for serial production

Metal 3D printing, at a glance, presents many advantages –
geometric freedom, reduction in parts per assembly,
light-weighting etc.-  over the traditional method of
manufacturing. However, the main barrier to widespread adoption
in automotive is the cost of serial production.

In Ampower’s study, PBF 3D printing for prototypes is
calculated based on a Concept Laser M2 dual LBM machines and an
Arcam Q20. Serial production is tested using the same Arcam Q20
and an SLM Solutions SLM500HL with 4 lasers.

The report concludes that, generally, EBM is the most
cost-efficient of the two methods for prototyping.

A quad-laser LBM system, by comparison, is more effective in
serial production, given this specific application.

Cost per part in LBM vs EBM. Image via AmpowerCost per part in
LBM vs EBM. Image via Ampower

The report states”…the EBM technology is significantly more
expensive for this application. The reason lies in the low
part volume due to the thin walled design. Here, the benefits
of high build rate of EBM machines cannot be applied,”

“High utilization of a quad laser system results in a high
effective build rate of the LBM machine technology.”

The benefits of additive manufacturing

If produced in quantities of more that 20 pieces per year,
manufacturers can save around 50% on the typical cost of
producing a tail pipe by switching to additive. Additionally,
post processing and further qualification are noted as
potential causes of high cost in additive.

Overall conclusions state that, “this study shows that
manufacturing of parts with high requirements on
mechanical properties and optical finishing is feasible.

“For these applications Additive Manufacturing offers
great potential to reduce the lead time and enable new

In addition, “It turns out that the fast lead time of around 25
days is a game changing benefit of additively manufactured
automotive parts such as the reviewed tail pipe blend compared
to traditional tool-bound production.”

Detailed insight about each part of the production process
side-by-side can be read in the full report, Additive
Manufacturing of Automotive Components
, which can be
accessed for free via the company’s website.

Featured image shows areas of potential additive
manufacturing application. Image via Ampower


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