Ford Shows How It 3D Prints Prototype Parts For Its New Models [w/Videos]

3D printing technology is taking off in the auto industry and Ford is one of the most devoted adopters.

The automaker has been using 3D printing as part of the development of new vehicles, including the all-new Ford GT supercar. The main benefit for using the technology is the significant reduction in development time through the use of prototype parts.

These enable Ford designers and engineers to quickly test and refine different approaches. Ford says it can print a 3D-part in just a few hours, for as little as €1,000 ($1,137), which means it can experiment more with radical, innovative design.

For example, for the GT supercar Ford designers used laser 3D printing techniques to create the F1-style steering wheel with integrated driver controls, the transmission paddle-shift controls and key lightweight structural components for the upward-swinging doors. Ford also used 3D printing technology to develop the intake manifold on the EcoBoost race engine for the GT race car.

Another model that benefited from the technique is the Mondeo Vignale, for which Ford 3D printed prototype parts such as the hexagonal Vignale design used in the upper front grille, with aluminum surround, dark matt metallic finish, and polished aluminium surround, and the high-gloss lower grille, with chrome bars and door detail designs.

Designers also used 3D printing to evaluate Vignale badges and exterior ornamentation, cut from nylon. Also printed were the dedicated 19-inch Vignale lustre nickel alloy wheels and dual chrome exhausts with polished aluminum surround.

Ford recently produced its 500,000th 3D printed part globally since buying its first printing machine in 1988 (the third in the world at the time).

For customers who own 3D printers, Ford offers templates that allow them to build scale models of the Ford GT, Focus ST, Fiesta ST, F-150 Raptor and about 1,000 other models.