Bubna, P., Humbert, M., Wiseman, M., and Manes, E., "Barriers to Entry in Automotive Production and Opportunities with Emerging Additive Manufacturing Techniques," SAE Technical Paper 2016-01-0329, 2016, doi:10.4271/2016-01-0329.
Conventional car manufacturing is extremely capital and energy-intensive. Due to these limitations, major auto manufacturers produce very similar, if not virtually identical, vehicles at very large volumes. This limits potential customization for different users and acts as a barrier to entry for new companies or production techniques. Better understanding of the barriers for low volume production and possible solutions with innovative production techniques is crucial for making low volume vehicles viable and accelerating the adoption of new production techniques and lightweight materials into the competitive marketplace. Additive manufacturing can enable innovative design with minimal capital investment in tooling and hence should be ideal for low and perhaps high volume parts. For this reason, it was desired to evaluate potential opportunities in manufacturing automotive parts with additive techniques. Analysis of traditional processes was first performed to identify and quantify capital expenditure (CAPEX) barriers for low volume production of B-pillars, K-frames, HVAC assemblies, door inner trims and clutch housings. Review of emerging production techniques has shown promising potential in reducing CAPEX barriers by direct printing of K-frames and door trims as well as dies for metal and plastic parts. Key insights from the study include views on current performance of additive techniques compared to traditional processes and identified avenues for R&D advancements to improve their viability. This analysis is based on cost models developed under ARPA-E funding which use a consistent set of assumptions and repeatable framework to calculate the cost of fabrication and assembly of components.