21 février 2024


Is 3D Printing the Future of Automotive Repair?

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3D printing is revolutionizing industries across the board, from fine jewelry to commercial buildings, and it appears that automotive repair is next.

Searching for car parts has always been a challenge for drivers. This has only gotten worse in recent years. Supply chain disruptions led to significant shortages, resulting in long waits and, for the rarest parts, larger repair bills.

However, 3D printing technology such as SLS and FDM presents a promising solution to the issues of current traditional manufacturing. By adopting industry-standard systems and tools, dealerships and forward-thinking mechanics could source and print parts on demand, saving time and money.

It’s Not a Theory, It’s an Inevitability

As of 2024, the automotive 3D printing market is currently valued at $1.21 billion and is projected to experience an annual growth rate of 21.74%, with major players like BMW and Toyota making heavy investments in the technology.

How does widespread adoption of the technology impact auto repair? From lower costs to a reduction in repair times and environmental impact, here are some of the benefits that affect service centers and customers alike.

Benefits for Consumers

  • Reduced Repair Times

The ability to print necessary parts on demand can drastically reduce wait times for repairs. Depending on the part and a service center’s 3D printer, it could take just a few hours to procure and print. This means repairs can be scheduled based on workload rather than part availability, saving drivers both time and money.

  • Extended Vehicle Lifespan

For those who diligently maintain their vehicles, the push to buy a new car is often prompted by an unexpected repair bill or lack of parts. An industry-wide catalogue of part print files for older vehicles would enable drivers to keep their cars longer.

Benefits for Dealers/Mechanics

  • Efficiency in Repairs

Reducing repair lead times benefits not just consumers but also repair shops and service centers, which often face space constraints due to holding onto broken vehicles. Faster repairs allow for a more efficient workflow, saving both time and money.

  • Inventory Cost Reduction

The cost of maintaining a parts inventory is significant. Printing on demand reduces the need for physical stock, easing the burden of stock management and improving cash flow.

  • Efficient Repair Services

Efficient repair services mean higher customer satisfaction and quicker vehicle returns. The ability to diagnose issues, print parts, and complete repairs swiftly can increase service capacity and, consequently, revenue.

  • Increased Trade-in Value

The ability to print obsolete parts makes it easier to refurbish and profit from older trade-ins. This can lead to more generous trade-in values for customers, potentially boosting sales.

Challenges of the Technology

The technology is not without its drawbacks. Without regulations and oversight in place, vehicle owners risk damaging their vehicles, or worse, putting themselves and other drivers at risk of potentially fatal accidents because of faulty or low-quality parts. This can be the result of a few things, namely:

  • Spectrum of Printers with Differing Quality Outputs

If mechanics attempt to cut corners by using lower-quality printers it can result in poor-quality prints. Bad print quality may require multiple attempts to correct, wasting time and material.

  • Range in Printing Material Quality

For 3D prints to be used in cars, they need to be printed with high-quality material. The low-cost print filament may have trouble holding up to heat, leaving the parts created susceptible to failing. 

Regulatory issues aside, 3D printing is poised to be the future of the auto repair industry. The benefits are encouraging for those on both sides of the service desk.

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