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Revving Up The 3D-Printed Car

3D printing is entering the world of car manufacturing , posing a potential revolution.

Alex Moersen

Few sectors are as closely tied to manufacturing innovation as the automobile industry. In 1913, Henry Ford popularized the moving assembly line to build his Model Ts. Then, over 50 years later, a new industry standard came to fruition with Taiichi Ohno’s Toyota Production System, which concentrated on reducing waste at all levels of production. As this production system became the new benchmark for factory efficiency, a new technology was already in development.

In 1983, Charles W. Hull invented stereolithography, the initial 3D printing technique which originally cost $100,000 or more per machine. Now, 3D printing has become increasingly mainstream, especially in producing one-off prototypes, allowing companies to make changes to their product more easily and cheaply by tweaking a printer’s software rather than resetting entire factory tools. However, with innovation almost always comes skepticism. Those skeptics claim that 3D printers are too slow and too expensive to mass produce complex objects. But, what are those skeptics to say to GE, which just invested $1.5 billion in 3D printing technology to make parts for jet engines.

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Winter 2017