Over the last 100 years or so, the Ford Motor Company has gotten really good at stamping sheet metal parts. Sadly, stamping can take up to 6-8 weeks from the time the design leaves the CAD station, so it’s not great for prototyping.
To speed up prototyping, Ford has created a rapid process they call the Ford Freeform Fabrication Technology, F3T for short.
Like most 3D printing technologies, the F3T process begins with a CAD model. Once the model has been validated a tool path is created for the part, and it’s then sent off to a dual arm robot that turns a 2D piece of sheet metal into an identical replica of the 3D model.
According to Matt Zaluzec, Senior Technical Leader of Global Materials and Manufacturing Research, with F3T Ford can hand “the part to the design engineering in a matter of hours instead of having to wait 6 weeks for an actual part.”
For Ford, the long term goal is to use this process to mass produce metal parts across the globe, and that’s good news for the 3D printing industry.
Watch a Video of Ford’s Freeform Fabrication Technology:
Image and Video Courtesy of Ford