The future lives in 2019 – Part 5 Automotive

January 18, 2019

The future lives in 2019 – a 19 part series to kick off the new year exploring products, technology, manufacturing, and how advancements that we may think of as futuristic actually live today in 2019. What are the trends? What are the new exciting products? How are they made? We will take a look at all of these from a market viewpoint and from a rapid manufacturing viewpoint.

For part 5 we take a look at the automotive industry with a focus on electric vehicles.

Electric vehicles are now no longer a niche but are increasingly becoming the norm. There are hundreds of startups and traditional manufacturers investing heavily in the future and this means a lot of R&D and a lot of prototypes and low-volume manufacturing.

Rapid prototype technologies and processes like 3D printing are ideal for the low-volume requirements for a lot of these vehicles at their outset.

Additive manufacturing is already becoming an increasing part of the automotive supply chain and is enabling new and challenging designs and weight saving applications.

There is a global slowdown in new car sales, and although this is a challenging time for the large automakers the technological and social changes afoot offer many new and interesting possibilities. The younger generations today are much more used to the sharing economy and services like UBER and Lyft have hit car ownership demand. That said the electric vehicle revolution is also opening up lots of possibilities in local and last mile transport solutions and the infrastructure to support them and the EV network as a whole.

There are many companies developing smart charging devices and other EV related infrastructure and it is not just the cars themselves driving demand for prototyping and manufacturing in this sector.

Prototype and low-volume manufacturing providers offer a number of application suited processes for the EV and low-volume transportation manufactures. Services like rapid injection molding, which enables you to get production quality parts, in real plastic materials from quick and cheap injection mold tooling is a great choice while ramping up. Vacuum casting is a great choice for large parts during the R&D stages when designs might not be finalized and production numbers are very low. Obviously 3D printing is no longer just about prototyping and many automotive companies are already utilizing it for production for many parts.

2019 will be a challenging year for automotive as many companies need to reevaluate what the market is looking for and re-calibrate production and supply chains for a lower volume, more personalized future.  But one thing is for sure, as more and more designs and players enter the EV market this year the future is increasingly living in 2019.

James Murphy

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