Russian car industry: the road to additive technologies

    Nissan plant in St. Petersburg: parts made on a 3D printer (white in the photo) are used to fix the trunk lid. Photo: Vedomosti / Nissan

    Automotive is one of the first industries where 3D technologies have found commercial applications: as early as 1988, the Ford concern began using 3D printers to print individual prototype elements.

    Today, this sector of the economy uses the achievements of additive technologies and 3D scanning to the maximum. Three-dimensional printing is an ideal way to create prototypes, functional parts and assemblies, as well as tooling and molds. It allows you to save time and money at the stages of product development and casting, ensuring the manufacture of geometrically complex parts with high detail. 3D-scanners and specialized software at the new level solve the problems of geometry control and reverse engineering , reducing the time of production of cars, contributing to the improvement of product quality and reduction of scrap rate.

    Some major automakers have already started mass production of components for their classic models or custom cars on 3D printers . Market leaders are investing heavily in the creation of additive technology centers for pilot production. For example, BMW has such a center - it produces more than 100 thousand components per year, and in 2019 it is planned to open another large complex.

    The development of 3D printing technology and the development of new materialswith improved physical properties also allow for the introduction of radically new, innovative ideas. Thus, the technology of "airless" tires Michelin Visionary Concept with the ability to change the tread pattern depending on the weather eliminates punctures, the problem of low pressure and other risks while driving.

    Perhaps a fully printed car on a 3D printer is a reality for the not-so-distant future. However, all of the above - the achievements of Western automakers. What is the situation and prospects for the development of additive technologies in Russia? In this article, we will focus on the advantages of 3D printing, consider the issue of innovation in the domestic car market, as well as practical examples of implementation.

    How 3D printing is used in the automotive industry

    Additive technologies effectively solve the following automotive production tasks:

    Prototyping will allow to optimize the production of those enterprises that are engaged in the release of cars (but not the assembly of finished models), as well as manufacturers of automotive components supplied to the conveyor.

    By means of topological optimization, the designer can specify almost any necessary part geometry and make changes to the design at later stages of development. The 3D model is transferred from the CAD system to a 3D printer, which in a short time prints prototypes, tooling or molds for casting products . This reduces production costs, the timing of product development and its launch on the market. In particular, the company can adjust the operational production of components, coinciding with the release of the car.
    Thanks to 3D printing, the Nissan plant in St. Petersburg saved more than 1 million rubles in 2017 without ordering production of equipment on the side
    Equipment and products that meet the required strength characteristics can be produced directly at the factory, having only one 3D printer. It will print various parts according to the nomenclature, which is impossible when using machine tools and other traditional tools.

    Technologies mainly used for prototyping:

    Equipment and molds that are printed from plastics and photopolymer resin will be several times cheaper than metal ones.

    You can also make functional products on metal 3D printers (for example, using SLM technology). 3D metal printing is also suitable for small batches, including the creation of customized products. The latest developments in the field of metal powders have opened the way to making lighter, denser, and in some cases more durable parts. Thanks to topological optimization on a 3D printer, it is possible to grow components of complex shape and texture (with a cellular structure, internal channels, etc.), including all-metal, which were previously assembled from several elements.

    Western experience: numbers and facts

    The Renault Sport Formula One team was one of the first to use 3D printing for prototyping. Today, a small group of engineers have been given the opportunity to produce hundreds of parts per week for wind tunnel tests, develop innovative parts for testing and installing cars, and generally speed up the R & D process. Thanks to the SLA and SLS technologies from 3D Systems, the production of complex automotive parts takes not weeks, but just a few hours.

    BMWOne of the first car companies to print on a 3D printer a batch of several thousand metal parts for the BMW i8 Roadster. The soft folding roof of this roadster has an additive-made component made of aluminum alloy with an innovative bionic design that repeats natural forms. The new product has a higher degree of rigidity compared to the analog, which was produced by injection molding, as well as less weight.

    Company Steeda Autosports , the largest manufacturer of accessories for Ford, the technology uses full-color 3D-printing for prototyping various components - from the cap to the oil can cast tubes cold intake system. Result: the product’s time to market is reduced by several weeks, and $ 3,000 is saved on each product by reducing the costs of machining and mold making.

    Michelin produces on metal 3D-printers insert into the mold for the separator of the slats - the most wear elements of the tire. The choice of a new technology, instead of the previously used stamping and milling, is due to the fine-grained metal structure, better thermal conductivity and, as a result, less wear and tear.

    Will the boom of additive technologies await Russia?

    In late summer - early autumn of 2018, several major international events of the automotive industry took place in Moscow. First of all, this is the Moscow Motor Show, where we saw a lot of promising domestic developments. General attention was attracted by the family of executive and top-class cars “Aurus” (project “Cortege”) and the novelties of VAZ, which closed its “classic” program and showed “Vesta”, updated “Grant”, and also the concept of the new “Niva 4x4”. Yandex continues to successfully promote its project of unmanned cars, and visitors to the car dealership could make an exciting trip in a taxi without a driver. But perhaps the most discussed development of the season was the concept electric vehicle CV-1 in the building of the old "Muscovite", presented by "Kalashnikov" at the military-technical forum "Army-2018". It can be stated

    The peak of sales in the car market of Russia fell on 2012, then the decline began, which has not yet been overcome. To improve the situation, the automotive development strategy for 2018-2025 , developed by the Government of the Russian Federation, is intended . It clearly identifies the priority tasks of the industry - an increase in the production of its own car models and high-quality auto components, as well as the establishment of links between manufacturers of auto components. At the same time localization should be at least 70%.

    New Moscow Motor Show: Aurus "Senate" - Russian executive class car

    If in the 1990s, Russia almost did not produce cars, buying used cars in Japan or Germany, then in the early 2000s, there were already 15 large car factories operating in the country. It is clear that with a real localization of 50-70%, a significant part of the value added for parts is created abroad (they are supplied and assembled on a conveyor in Russia), but today we fully provide for our domestic market. The most popular models - such as Solaris, Polo, Rapid - are produced in Russia.

    According to the government's strategy, the percentage of the budget of enterprises, which is laid in innovation and new development, is now about 15%. The goal has been set to bring this figure to a global figure of 25-30%, and this opens up good prospects for the introduction of 3D technologies in the Russian automotive industry.

    For domestic automakers, the additive trend is for the time being an almost untapped territory, so there is little information about the use of 3D technologies. The newspaper Vedomosti reports that the GAZ group , according to its representative, uses 3D printing to prototype machine parts. According to the official website of the Altai Territory , this year KamAZ Corporation received two unique Russian-made 3D printers. These plants print high-precision sand molds for steel casting.

    Speaking of foreign manufacturers in Russia, we give an example of the Renault-Nissan alliance: he began the introduction of additive technologies from his Western European industries, now it’s Russia's turn. At the Nissan plant in St. Petersburg, 3D printers print prototypes and accessories, as well as devices for calibrating doors, headlights and sensors. This allowed the company to save in 2017 more than 1 million rubles, without ordering the production of equipment on the side. In Moscow, at the Renault enterprise, the security elements of the tools used are made using 3D printers.

    The potential of 3D printing for the automotive market

    Burnout casting models printed on a 3D printer allow Renault Formula One to quickly produce large metal parts of great complexity.

    Thus, 3D printing allows car manufacturers and car manufacturers to get a number of advantages:

    1. reduction of time at the stage of product development and casting ;
    2. saving time and costs for the manufacture of tooling and molds;
    3. Denial of services to manufacturing contractors;
    4. carrying out technological experiments and functional testing;
    5. the creation of geometrically complex products with small parts that can not be made by traditional methods;
    6. weight reduction of parts and savings of materials due to topological optimization ;
    7. acceleration of the release of a new product or an exclusive series on the market.

    In an increasingly tough competition, the issue of innovation is becoming more acute. Around the world, a growing number of automakers have realized the benefits of 3D technology for optimizing the production process. As we have seen, in the Russian automobile industry, additive methods began to be introduced relatively recently and are used only in a few large enterprises of Russian or foreign automakers.

    In today's Russian realities, the introduction of additive production faces many obstacles, among which are the insufficient automation of many factories and the lack of funding. 3D printing technologies such as selective laser melting, while we are not available due to the high cost of equipment and materials. At present, the optimal solution that will be beneficial to the manufacturer and will pay off in real terms is the purchase of one 3D printer for the production of plastic prototypes and tooling (without having to order it from suppliers).

    Governmental strategy for the development of the automotive industry for 2018-2025 gives hope that the process of introducing 3D printing will go faster and become widespread.

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