XEV, an Italy-based electric car company and 3D printing material company Polymaker collaborate to launch the first mass-producible 3D-printed electric car in the world. Both managers share their thoughts regarding this collaboration:
Tell us why you chose 3D Printing in the manufacturing process
The main purpose…That’s a long story. I am a car enthusiast. I have been manufacturing cars for 20 years. During the last 20 years, we had a very complicated and painful process to fabricate a car from research to manufacturing.
So, while looking for a solution to this complicated, painful, and costly process, we found that 3D printing was ideal and unique solution. This technology enables to cut down 90% of development cost, and 70% of the development time.
The car will therefore be more beautiful because you can go beyond of the limit of traditional manufacturing. It actually enables a lot of freedom of the style and creativity in the design. Furthermore, it allows a lot of variations and in a short time, it is possible create a large range of production line. Each line will be dedicated to a niche market.
What 3D printing technology did you choose for the final production process?
Many years ago, 3D printing was called rapid prototyping. Thereafter, FDM became very popular. There is even a lot of FDM 3D printers.
For me, it was the sign that this technology and its materials are affordable for the general public, and that there could be possibilities that it can be used in large volume production.
Then I started to look for a way to make this project of car manufacturing happened. That’s how I met Roberto who is one of the best 3D printing experts and co-founder of the company. A few times later, we met Mr. Luo Xiaofan, the founder of Polymaker which, in our opinion, creates one of the best 3D printing materials on the market.
After brainstorming, we then decided to make large volume production with FDM technology. In the end, we founded a production line that is heavily based on 3D printing. It has all the benefits of 3D printing, in the meanwhile it is affordable and less costly compared with traditional manufacturing.
How long does it take to print all the plastic parts for one LSEV car?
Currently, it takes about 3 days to print all the pieces of the car from interior to exterior. Each of our 3D printing machine can extrude 25kg amount of material per day. This is about 10 times faster than the other industrial 3D printers.
What are the challenges for scaling up production?
The main challenge is that nobody did this before. So, you have to try, you have to be brave, but we believe we have the best team with best talented people. It will happen. We will find the best way in the shortest time.
Aside from the time and cost savings on production, what other benefits does 3D printing offer to your process?
In addition to freedom of design, not only our customer, but also the general public can have a way to join the car development. You can also change the way industrial make cars today. The investment of building a factory becomes much smaller. We create the most efficient way of production, not just for car, but for other projects.
Manufacturing has become a sort of platform, which means one machine can build unlimited shapes, unlimited parts. You don’ t need to change the machine to make different parts. With one of our machines, you can make a car door or a bumper, a circular shape or a triangle shape, a 0.5X0.5m area part or a 1.5×1.5m area part.
So, any individual can basically make any kind of part on this manufacturing platform. The only thing needed to be changed is the 3D data. You don’t need to know how to manufacture a car, all you need to do is design the look that you want, and then leave the manufacturing process to the 3D printing machine. That is what Industry 4.0 means I think.
What value does Polymaker offer?
Without Polymaker, we couldn’t make this happen. Automotive industrial’s requirement is very tough. Imagine you have to drive the car from a place where it is 40℃ to another place where it is -30 ℃. So, this project requires precise materials for the manufacturing of the car.
Without Polymaker, things are under controlled on that side. We received a lot of suggestions, especially regarding cost and timing for instance. We really like this interaction with Polymaker, this can be called as know-how combination. Without this kind of interaction, we also couldn’t find the solution we have today. So, we really appreciate what Polymaker does and creates for us, we are like brother strategic partners, not just strategic partners.
Interview of Xiaofan Luo, CEO of Polymaker
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