Case Study Audi reduces prototyping lead time by using 3D printing for tail light covers
With vivid colours for the Stratasys J750 3D printer, Audi hopes to quickly produce transparent, mulit-coloured parts meeting texture and colour-matching requirements of its stringent design approval process.
Stratasys announced that the Audi Pre-Series Center with its Plastics 3D Printing Center in Ingolstadt, Germany, will use a full-colour, multi-material 3D printer – the Stratasys J750 – to innovate its design process and accelerate design verification. For the production of tail light covers, Audi expects to reduce prototyping lead times by up to 50 percent.
Before a new vehicle goes into production, the Audi Pre-Series Center in Ingolstadt builds physical models and prototypes for the brand to evaluate new designs and concepts thoroughly. This requires allocation of most parts of the vehicle in an early stage of product development – everything from wheel covers and door handles to radiator grills.
Traditional methods, such as moulding and milling, are commonly used to create and replicate new designs. However, the use of plastics 3D printing has become an integral part of the automotive design process at the Audi Pre-Series Center, enabling the team to overcome limitations of conventional processes and accelerate design verification.
In the case of tail light covers, the team traditionally used milling or moulding to produce individual parts. The main challenge with these production techniques are the multi-coloured covers of the tail light housing. These individual colour parts must be assembled, as they cannot be produced in one piece. This time-intensive process increases lead times for design verification and subsequently delays time-to-market.
Ultra-realistic colour, multi-material prototyping accelerates design
Streamlining the process, the Audi Plastics 3D Printing Center will use Stratasys’ J750 full-colour, multi-material 3D printing. This will enable production of entirely transparent, multi-coloured tail light covers in a single print, eliminating the need for its previous multi-step process. With over 500,000 colour combinations available, the team can 3D print transparent parts in multiple colours and textures that meet the stringent requirements of the Audi design approval process.
“Design is one of the most important buying decisions for Audi customers, therefore it’s crucial we adhere to supreme quality standards during the design and concept phase of vehicle development,” explains Dr Tim Spiering, Head of the Audi Plastics 3D Printing Center. “As a result, we need prototypes to have exact part geometries, no distortion and extremely high quality, as well as true-to-part colour and transparency. The Stratasys J750 3D Printer will offer us a significant advantage, as it allows us to print the exact textures and colours our design defines. This is essential for getting design concepts approved for production. In terms of 3D printing transparent parts, I have not seen a comparable technology that meets our standards.
“Using the J750 for the prototyping of tail light covers, we will be able to accelerate our design verification process,” continues Spiering. “We estimate time-savings of up to 50 percent by using this 3D print technique in our prototyping process of tail light covers.”
Dr Spiering and his 24-member team are responsible for providing all plastics 3D printing expertise, advice and production at Audi. Having invested in its first Stratasys FDM 3D Printer in 2002, the division has since grown its portfolio to ten polymer 3D printers, including a range of Stratasys FDM and PolyJet 3D Printers.
Andy Middleton, President EMEA, Stratasys, concludes: “Audi is a prime example of how our unique full colour, multi-material 3D printing technology can combine several design processes into one, rapidly accelerating development cycles. If you extend the time-savings achieved by Audi on the tail lights to other parts of the vehicle, the overall impact on time-to-market can be huge. We’re excited to see how Audi continues to leverage our FDM and PolyJet technologies into new application areas to further increase efficiencies across its development process.”
This article was first published on www.etmm-online.com.