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3D Printing Paves Way for Custom Car Designs

• http://www.technewsdaily.com, Elizabeth Palermo
F3T uses computer aided design (CAD) files, just like 3D printing technologies. But unlike additive manufacturing processes that build up material like plastic or metal, the F3T machine presses flat sheet metal into three-dimensional car parts.

To accomplish this, Ford engineers use a computer program that translates their CAD files into a series of instructions, called "tool paths," that can be interpreted by the robot controlling the F3T machine.

The robot, in turn, tells the F3T machine's arms — each of which holds a giant stylus — what to do with the sheet metal. The styluses press down on the metal over and over again along the same path, creating grooves and, eventually, a 3D car part.

Ford can use F3T to make sheet metal parts for prototypes and customized car parts quickly and more affordably than they ever could with traditional, die manufacturing processes. [See also: Why 3D Printing Matters for 'Made in USA']

Die manufacturing requires that Ford design and construct dies, which are basically heavy metal molds, and then attach these dies to machines that stamp out sheet metal parts.

 

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