Automotive Applications with the BigRep PRO

Whether you operate the BigRep PRO today, outsource to a machine shop or are currently contemplating a new equipment purchase, this article is for you.

The BigRep PRO is the most user-friendly, large format 3D printer available on the market and adoption continues to increase, specifically in the automotive sector for a variety of applications.

While 3D printing began as a rapid prototyping solution for many automobile OEMs and suppliers, it has since become a highly useful machine for product customization, tooling, and even end-use production possibilities. According to a recent report by AMFG, the automotive 3D printing market is expected to grow to $5.8 billion by 2025.

Automotive Productivity

Compared to most industries, automotive is on the cutting edge of technology adoption and additive manufacturing has become a critical consideration for the future of product development and production. New technologies are being implemented on the manufacturing floor to increase efficiencies, provide a safer environment for workers, and embrace Industry 4.0 for smarter manufacturing. In the following video, BigRep prints a full scale fixture that is ergonomically improved for manual labor applications and concurrently used as a hand jig for alignment. The BigRep PRO is advantageous for many automotive applications due to its large build platform (1m²), remote monitoring system and advanced material capabilities.

3D Printing with the BigRep PRO

57% of manufacturers purchase or use additive manufacturing equipment for jigs, fixtures and tooling. Source: Jabil, AM Survey 2019

Smart Manufacturing

Operating the BigRep PRO is simple and intuitive. Begin by installing BLADE slicing software and take a moment to review the material profiles available on the BigRep PRO. Although the PRO is an open system platform capable of running a variety of 3rd party materials, we include custom material profiles with our own proprietary filaments, which were developed and certified specifically for the PRO. This dramatically reduces print setup time and allows engineering to immediately begin print requests. Custom sensors are integrated into the PRO which enables real-time equipment feedback and the remote monitoring system allows you to monitor printer performance at any time. Printing large parts takes hours, sometimes days, so it’s certainly convenient to occasionally check in on your parts while finishing other tasks. This is smart manufacturing.

  • BLADE Software with predetermined material profiles for optimal printing performance
  • Smart sensors for real-time equipment feedback
  • Remote monitoring that enables lights-out manufacturing

High-Performance Processes and Materials for Improved Functionality

Fixtures on an automotive assembly line must be rugged and durable. Before 3D printing, fixtures were designed and machined using subtractive manufacturing. This process was reliable but designs were limited, lead times were too long, and the costs didn’t always outweigh the benefit. Even worse, some production facilities needed to bond or weld tooling fixtures together which may lead to structural deficiencies and major problems on the manufacturing floor. Using the BigRep PRO, automotive OEMs and suppliers are embracing the ability to immediately build tools that are sized appropriately and require no additional post processing. In this particular case, BigRep prints HI-TEMP CF (carbon fiber) that is built to withstand significant forces with no warping or part degradation. It’s ideal for large parts that require ultimate strength and functionality.

  • High Temp CF is a lightweight material ideal for stiff and durable applications
  • 65 MPa tensile strength
  • Low moisture absorption

Subtractive vs. Additive: Handheld Automotive Fixture

ProcessTime to ProduceCost
CNC Subtractive Manufacturing15 Days~5,000 €
Other FDM Additive Manufacturing Services8 Days~1,000 €
BigRep PRO Additive Manufacturing1.3 Days~675 €
Savings91% Time Savings77.5% Cost Savings

Fixtures and the Future

This particular fixture is approximately 130 cm x 14 cm x 22 cm and was printed in 32 hours. This is lightning fast compared to conventional subtractive or other additive manufacturing technologies. Furthemore, it was printed in one single pass without the need for bonding, finishing, or welding. The BigRep PRO is built to tackle the largest (or smallest) prototyping and production requests from any department in your organization. While this article strategically focuses on automotive fixturing applications, it’s obvious that this can be adopted for many other industrial manufacturers and use cases. BigRep prides itself on being the most reliable, user-friendly, large platform additive manufacturing machine in the market.

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