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Ford plans 3D printed parts

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Ford Motor Company is exploring how large one-piece auto parts, like car spoilers, could be printed for prototyping and future production vehicles, as the first automaker to pilot the Stratasys Infinite Build 3D printer.

Capable of printing car parts of practically any shape or length, the Stratasys Infinite Build system could be a breakthrough for vehicle manufacturing, providing a more efficient and affordable way to produce tooling, prototype parts, or components at low volumes, like Ford Performance vehicles, or for personalized car parts.

“With the Infinite Build technology, we are now able to print large tools, fixtures, and components, making us more nimble in design iterations,” said Ellen Lee, Ford technical leader for additive manufacturing research. “We’re excited to have early access to Stratasys’ new technology in order to help steer the development of large scale printing for automotive applications and requirements.”

The new 3D print system is located at Ford’s Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn.

An emerging technology for manufacturing

As 3D printing becomes increasingly efficient and affordable, companies are employing this emerging technology for manufacturing applications in everything from aerospace, to education, to medicine. Wider adoption in 3D printing has been driven by recent technology advances, new areas of application and government support, according to Global Industry Analysts Inc. By 2020, the global market for 3D printing is expected to reach $9.6 billion, the organization reported.

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In the future, 3D printing could have immense benefits for automotive production, including the ability to produce lighter-weight parts, which may help improve fuel efficiency. A 3D-printed spoiler, for instance, may weigh less than half of its metal-cast equivalent.

Additionally, 3D printing is a more cost-efficient way to produce parts only needed at low volumes, like prototypes and specialized parts for racecars. Further, Ford also may use the technology to make larger printed tooling and fixtures as well as personalized components for customers.

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How it works

Specifications for the part are transferred from the computer-aided design program to the printer’s computer, which analyzes the design. Then, the device goes to work, printing one layer of material at a time – in this case, plastic – and then gradually stacking the layers into a finished 3D object.

When the system detects that the raw material or supply material canister is empty, a robotic arm automatically replaces it with a full canister. This allows the printer to operate for hours or days while unattended.

Benefits of 3D printing

Though 3D printing isn’t yet fast enough for high-volume production manufacturing, it is a more cost-efficient way to produce parts only needed at low volumes, like prototypes and specialized parts for racecars. In addition, when not limited by the constraints of mass production processes, components can be designed to function more efficiently.

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Using traditional methods, an engineer would create a computer model of the part and wait for months for prototype tooling to be produced. With 3D printing, Ford can print the same part in days at a significantly reduced cost. For example, a prototype for a new intake manifold could be produced over a couple of days as opposed to several months, at an order of magnitude lower cost.

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Cars connect to traffic lights

New Jaguar Land Rover technology using Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2X) connects cars to traffic lights so drivers can avoid getting stuck at red and help free up traffic flow in cities.

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The world’s first traffic lights were installed exactly 150 years ago outside the Houses of Parliament in London. Since then drivers around the globe have spent billions of hours waiting for green. With Jaguar Land Rover’s latest tech, however, their days could be numbered.

The Green Light Optimal Speed Advisory (GLOSA) system allows cars to “talk” to traffic lights and inform the driver the speed they should drive as they approach junctions or signals.

Widespread adoption of the V2X technology will prevent drivers from racing to beat the lights and improve air quality by reducing harsh acceleration or braking near lights. The goal is for the V2X revolution to create free-flowing cities with fewer delays and less commuter stress.

The connected technology is currently being trialed on a Jaguar F-PACE, as part of a £20 million (R371 million) collaborative research project.

Like all Jaguar or Land Rover vehicles today, the F-PACE already boasts a wide range of sophisticated Advanced Driver Assistance (ADAS) features. The connected technology trials are enhancing existing ADAS features by increasing the line of sight of a vehicle when it is connected via the internet to other vehicles and infrastructure. GLOSA is being tested alongside a host of other measures to slash the time commuters spend in traffic.

For example, Intersection Collision Warning (ICW) alerts drivers when it is unsafe to proceed at a junction. ICW informs drivers if other cars are approaching from another road and can suggest the order in which cars should proceed at a junction.

Jaguar Land Rover has also addressed time lost to searching for a parking space by providing real-time information of available spaces to drivers and developed an Emergency Vehicle Warning to alert motorists when a fire engine, police car or ambulance is approaching. The advanced technology builds on the connected systems already available on the Jaguar F-PACE such as Adaptive Cruise Control.

Oriol Quintana-Morales, Jaguar Land Rover Connected Technology Research Engineer, said: “This cutting-edge technology will radically reduce the time we waste at traffic lights. It has the potential to revolutionise driving by creating safe, free-flowing cities that take the stress out of commuting. Our research is motivated by the chance to make future journeys as comfortable and stress-free as possible for all our customers.”

The trials are part of the £20 million government-funded project, UK Autodrive, which has helped accelerate the development of Jaguar Land Rover’s future self-driving and connected technology. As well as strengthening the Midlands’ position as a hub of mobility innovation. Britain’s biggest car maker, headquartered in Coventry, is working on connected technology as part of its pledge to deliver zero accidents, zero congestion and zero emissions.

Connected technology will link the vehicle to everything around it, allowing seamless, free-flowing traffic that will pave the way for delivering self-driving vehicles.

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Roborace reveals new vehicle

Roborace has given its fans a first look at what the new competition vehicle for Season Alpha will look like at the WebSummmit conference in Lisbon, Portugal.

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DevBot 2.0 utilizes sensors similar to that in Robocar and is also fully electric, but has the addition of a cockpit for a human driver.

Season Alpha will see teams comprising of both a human driver and an AI driver. Lap times from the duo will be compared with that of other human + machine teams to determine a winner.

DevBot 2.0 will be launched in the new year but Roborace CEO Lucas Di Grassi has shared some first glimpses of what 2019 holds for the series in an interview on stage at WebSummit.

Season Alpha will see teams compete starting in Spring 2019 using the DevBot 2.0 vehicles to develop their automated driving systems, with professional drivers teaching the AI how to improve, as well as learning from the AI how to better their own performance.

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