With 3-D printing, dealers could someday print their own parts

With 3-D printing, dealers could someday –print” their own parts

3-D printing gets a lot of publicity, but for practical purposes itês still in its infancy. Carlisle & Company, consultant to a number of OEM aftersales divisions, has said that dealers may someday print their own auto parts with an onsite 3-D printer. In a recent article in WardsAuto, editor Steve Finlay interviewed Carlisle principal Brian Crounse about how 3-D printers will affect the auto industry.

Up to 30 percent of auto parts could be printed at dealerships or at a centralized nearby location, Crounse said. A nearby printer shared by several dealerships could be owned either by the automaker or a 3-D printing company.

Not all parts are suitable for 3-D printing. Metal parts are prohibitively expensive to print that way. But some printers use plastic and carbon fiber, which could potentially produce parts that are just as strong at much less cost, said Crounse.

3-D printing would be especially suitable for parts that are small (less material needed) or complex (more expensive to produce by machine). Good candidates include some engine components and some interior parts, such as air vents. It will be important to ensure that 3-D-printed parts are comparable with those made by machine.

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