Audi Leverages Full-Color, Multi-Material 3D Printing for Tail Light Testing
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on June 07, 2018 | | 3464 views

The automotive industry is a long-time adopter of 3D printing technology for prototyping and design purposes. And as car manufacturing has changed, so have the tools companies use in the production process. With the development of such 3D printing technologies as PolyJet, it’s now possible for manufacturers to validate designs in ways that were previously impossible.

A taillight cover prototype 3D printed using the StratasysJ750. (Image courtesy of Stratasys.)
A taillight cover prototype 3D printed using the StratasysJ750. (Image courtesy of Stratasys.)
This development was evidenced by the latest announcement from Stratasys that the Audi Pre-Series Center and its Plastics 3D Printing Center in Ingolstadt, Germany, is using the Stratasys J750 PolyJet 3D printer to design and validate parts for its automobiles. In particular, Audi believes that the technology will reduce prototyping lead times by up to 50 percent for its taillight covers.

The Audi Pre-Series Center is responsible for building physical prototypes of new designs before they head to production. Though the center has been using fused deposition modeling since 2002 to replace traditional techniques, like molding and milling, the J750 has expanded these capabilities even further due to its unique full-color, multi-material process.

Older 3D printing technology is limited in terms of its color and material capabilities, leaving Audi to rely on milling and molding to model multi-colored tail light covers. This resulted in the need to assemble multiple colored components into a single assembly—a time-intensive process. In contrast, the J750 can print parts in 500,000 different color combinations with an array of physical properties, including the transparency necessary for taillight prototyping.

Tim Spiering, head of the Audi Plastics 3D Printing Center, explained in a press release that, due to the design requirements of Audi cars, it’s necessary that prototypes have“exact part geometries, no distortion and extremely high quality, as well as true-to-part color and transparency.

“In terms of 3D printing transparent parts, I have not seen a comparable technology that meets our standards,” Spiering said. “Using the J750 for the prototyping of tail light covers, we will be able to accelerate our design verification process. We estimate time savings of up to 50 percent by using this 3D print technique in our prototyping process of tail light covers.”

Those familiar with the few multi-color, multi-material 3D printing technologies on the market will likely agree with Spiering that the J750 is probably the only system capable of printing colored, transparent objects such as the tail lights made by Audi.


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