Nov 13, 2017
The Ultimaker team was excited to be a part of the 51st SEMA Show in Las Vegas, joining over 70,000 attendees for one of the largest conferences in the automotive industry. Comprised of a wide audience ranging from custom car professionals to tech gurus searching for the most innovative tools, we had the chance to speak to many SEMA Show attendees interested in 3D printing.
Ultimaker’s Volkswagen Autoeuropa case study posted earlier this year shows the growing importance of 3D printing in the automotive industry, demonstrating how Volkswagen achieved a 91% cost reduction and 95% time savings by incorporating Ultimaker 3D printers into their workflow.
In a similar case study, we found that Tucci Hot Rods is able to save $500 per part using Ultimaker printers instead of machine-made, aftermarket solutions. As some predictions indicate that 3D printing will represent a large portion of the manufacturing market by 2030, there’s no shortage of opportunity for additive manufacturing to make waves in the automotive industry.
Our booth was located in the First Time & Featured Exhibitors hall and machines highlighted within the New Product Showcase exhibition at SEMA Show 2017. During the show, our team was able to speak to a broad range of custom car builders, aftermarket part firms, auto manufacturers, and tier one suppliers about the possibilities of additive manufacturing and design.
Real-world examples on display
Perched in the Ultimaker booth was a custom mod motorcycle by Nick Maffey of Maffey Moto; a 1986-era BMW R80 motorcycle radically reimagined as a sleek classic street scrambler. Many of the critical elements of the new design were made possible thanks to custom parts printed on Ultimaker. Nick worked closely with Tucci Hot Rods to produce these 3D printed parts for the motorcycle, including the airbox, headlight, and tail light assembly, ignition switch, tank badges, flexible grips, and brake covers.
“We are able to use the 3D printer to create these functional end-use parts that look really cool and blend with a vintage style,” Nick said, “and not spend $50,000 developing the part. It really expands what you can do. With 3D modeling as well, whatever you think up, you can make.”
Also printing away in our space were parts by Dom Tucci of Tucci Hot Rods, designed for his “Standing Mile” pro-mod 2018 Ford Mustang street racer that was on display at the center of the Ford booth, one of the largest exhibitors at SEMA Show. Dom has had work featured in the Ford booth before, including a custom Ford Fiesta at SEMA 2016 that was invited back this year for display in Optima Alley—the project which initially sparked the idea to integrate 3D printing into his design and prototyping processes.
“We started this with the Ford Fiesta project before the Mustang,” Dom says. “We wanted to do a bunch of neat things with it, and I determined that the only cost-effective way to get this stuff done in the time available was to 3D print it.” The Ford Mustang featured hood vents, intakes, fender flares, and custom dash display surrounds 3D printed on an Ultimaker. Highlighting his work on the Mustang, Tucci won a Special Recognition Award for Outstanding Achievements in Design from Ford.
“We are trying to show that this technology can be used for functional, end-use products," Dom elaborates. "Additive manufacturing has been around for a long time, and we are bringing it into the construction of vintage parts, to show that it can make end-use parts really work.”
Flexibility in design customization
Nick and Dom both discussed their processes for customization, speaking to the value and flexibility that design iterations can bring. Nick pointed out the importance of saving time and effort in his design and customization process. “I think that is one of the best parts of 3D printing. If you were to design this [tail light] and have it made, or sculpted it for hours out of something, it is just not worth it at that point. We can do these little custom things that take a little trial and error, and are super easy.”
The interactions our team had with attendees at SEMA Show were invaluable. As business owners, they understood the need to embrace technology and move a product to market faster than ever before. With an established understanding of personalization and customization, visitors to the Ultimaker booth were intrigued by the ways one 3D printing tool could be used for so many applications; from jigs and fixtures to molding, casting, and finished end-use products.
“It was a great show,” says John Kawola, President of Ultimaker North America. “It was an honor to be there with some of our best customers and see how 3D printing continues to help automotive companies design and innovate faster.” While some attendees were already familiar with 3D printing in the automotive space, they were excited to learn about dual extrusion with PVA on the Ultimaker 3. Having real-world examples printing in our booth allowed attendees to see the possibilities in action, with tangible finished models on display to highlight how finished the end product can be.
The value of 3D printing in the auto industry
Throughout the duration of the show, Ultimaker had the only 3D printers running in the New Product Showcase, which presented a great opportunity to connect with attendees interested in additive manufacturing. We were honored to take home a Global Media Award from SEMA Show 2017, which recognized Ultimaker's international consumer appeal.
With our increasing range of materials and the steady release of software updates like Cura Connect, Ultimaker continues to offer valuable tools for design studios, automotive shops, and the factory floor that can improve efficiency and cost savings across the board.
Earlier this month we found that the cost of an automotive minute is an astounding $50,667 for assemblers and fabricators of miscellaneous parts. After Volkswagen Autoeuropa turned to Ultimaker, they saved over $175,000 in 2016 in one of their plants and are projected to save over $375,000 this year. It’s clear that 3D printing is changing the game in automotive manufacturing, and we can’t wait to see what we’re able to bring to the table at SEMA Show 2018!