Additive Manufacturing (AM) and electric vehicles are both considered as disrupting technologies of the 21st century. According to a recent market study, AM industry is growing at a compounded rate of 21.8%, and the electric vehicles industry is growing at arouund 21.7% yearly. Additionally, government policies worldwide are developed to facilitate the growth of AM and the electric vehicle industry. The two sectors are closely related as most electric vehicle manufacturers use AM as an integral part of their manufacturing process. Moreover, all the major OEMs have announced electric vehicles, and sales are constantly increasing.
This article by AM Chronicle discusses the role of AM in the electrical vehicles industry. It focuses on the advantages of AM for the electrical vehicles industry and discusses case studies of AM in the electric automobile industry.
One of the unique advantages of AM is that is offers flexibility to select from a wide range of materials. Some AM materials used in the automobile industry are composites, metals, and polymers. In addition, new materials are constantly developed for specific product applications. The material advantage in AM offers the electric vehicles industry to manufacture low-weight and high-performance components.
Research and Development
As the electric vehicle industry is constantly developing and facing new engineering and product development challenges, the rapid prototyping solution offered by AM helps to make research and development swift. Polymer AM is now widely used in the industry to develop and study prototypes. In addition, metal and composite AM is used to manufacture functional prototypes that can be used in functional testing, providing insights to the research and development team.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that AM improves sustainability compared to traditional manufacturing processes. The main reason for the improvement is the reduction of the required materials, on-demand manufacturing, and the ability to manufacture complex geometry without specific tools. As the electric vehicle industry is closely related to sustainability, hence role of AM in making the manufacturing of electric vehicles sustainable is significant.
Gears and Gearbox casing
The use of AM for manufacturing gears and gearbox casing in electric vehicles offers various advantages compared to traditional manufacturing. The key benefits are reduction in weight, better heat management, and safety improvement. The aluminum alloys are used in most cases to manufacture the gears, gearbox, or gearbox casing. But the major limitation of using AM for gearbox components are cost and scale of production.
Electrical parts are the heart of electric vehicles, and electrical components’ performance directly affects the vehicle’s overall performance. Motor housing, coils, and stators are some components that can be manufactured using the metal AM. In addition, the ability of AM to print various copper alloys helps improve the automobile’s electrical performance. The key advantages are improved electrical performance under multiple loading conditions and thermal management.
3D Printed Drive Housing for Electrical Vehicles by Porsche
Porsche demonstrated a 3D printed drive housing prototype that can be used in the company’s race car variants. The housing prototype demonstrated enhanced performance and was 10% lighter than the conventional drive housing. It was printed using the laser powder bed technology using aluminum alloy. In addition, the drive housing also had a honeycomb structure on the part body, which improves the thermal performance of part and is very challenging to manufacture using conventional manufacturing methods.
Honda’s 3D printed Electrical Car
Honda created a prototype of a single-seater electric car in which 3D printing was used to manufacture panels. The main idea behind the car was to offer customers a wide range of customizations using 3D printing technology. The use of polymer AM in manufacturing enabled to development of an automobile with low weight and high strength. According to the company, it required a month to print all automobile parts.
3D printed Mini EV YOYO by XEV
XEV is an Italian start-up that offers 3D printed electrical vehicle YOYO. Using AM in production helped the company reduce the cost of tooling. It also resulted in the development of more flexible manufacturing systems for XEV. The other advantages were reduced required components and the ability to modify design rapidly without changing tools.
AM’s role in manufacturing electric vehicles is increasing, helping manufacturers get various advantages. In the future, we will see integrated subtractive and additive manufacturing workflows exclusively developed for electrical vehicles. As more and more electrical vehicle manufacturers integrate AM into their manufacturing process, the technology will develop further and optimize its benefits.
Schuhmann, D., Rockinger, C., Merkel, M. and Harrison, D.K., 2022. A Study on Additive Manufacturing for Electromobility. World Electric Vehicle Journal, 13(8), p.154.
IEA (2021), Global EV Outlook 2021, IEA, Paris https://www.iea.org/reports/global-ev-outlook-2021
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