3D Printing Materials for Automotive Applications | Part 1

3D Printing Materials for Automotive Applications | Part 1

Choosing the correct material is one of the most important decisions in new product development and part design for automotive applications. To stay ahead of the curve in the face of rapid technological advancements, automotive manufacturers, designers, and engineers are increasingly turning to 3D printing materials for their inherent benefits. Material selection becomes the driving force, dictating the ideal process for your automotive application. In this article, we will dive into a series of material properties and characteristics that will help you determine which material will meet your automotive application requirements.  

Factors to Consider Before Choosing a Material

1. Tensile Strength

Plastic’s tensile strength refers to the resistance it can withstand before it breaks or permanently deforms. This is especially important when considering materials for automotive applications because of the high stress and loads they are regularly exposed to. A part’s strength depends not only on the material itself, but also on the part orientation, infill density, printing direction, and filament temperature. To maintain a level of consistency and standardization with each polymer 3D printed part, Endeavor 3D uses the ASTM D638 standard to test the tensile strength. 

2. Flexibility and Rigidity

Flexibility and rigidity represent material properties with profound implications for part functionality and design. The flexibility of a material is quantified by the elongation at break (%), measuring the percentage a material stretches before it fractures. Rigidity reflects a material’s resistance to bending or deformation. Often quantified by the modulus of elasticity (Youngs Modulus), it defines the stiffness and amount of force required to cause a specific deflection. A higher modulus of elasticity indicates materials with greater rigidity under loading conditions.  
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3. Heat Resistance

A material’s ability to withstand elevated temperatures directly translates to which automotive applications it will be used for. Heat resistance gauges a material’s ability to retain its functionality, shape, and structural integrity under pressure. 

One common way Endeavor 3D quantifies the heat resistance of plastic to avoid deformation is by evaluating the heat deflection temperature (HDT) using the ASTM D638 test method. This gives us a clear indication of how 3D-printed parts will perform under real-world scenarios. During HDT testing, the level of stiffness is measured to help predict the 3D-printed part’s response to varying loading conditions.  

4. Chemical Resistance

In the automotive industry, end-use products are often exposed to environments that contain harsh chemicals. Many 3D-printed polymers have emerged as key players in automotive applications because of their ability to resist lubricants, cleaning agents, and UV radiation. To determine if a material is suitable for a specific automotive application, it is essential to understand the basic molecular structure of a material. 

After the cooling process, amorphous or semi-crystalline chains are formed that affect the temperature resistance and strength of the polymer. The more crystalline a polymer is, the more resistant it is to aggressive chemicals. The chemical resistance of a polymer is also affected by the presence of fillers and the orientation of the material’s bonds.  

External factors should also be considered when determining a polymer’s chemical resistance for automotive applications. The mechanical stress, temperature concentration, and physical absorption of the chemical are parameters that play a role in the material selection process.  

5. Cost

Balancing cost and performance are crucial in determining the correct material for automotive applications. Understanding what influences the expenses of 3D-printed projects can help optimize and streamline the process.  

Determining the material properties can help kickstart whether a material is suitable for an automotive application. Once you have a material in mind, the part complexity plays a vital role in determining the cost of your project. 3D printing’s ability to overcome design constraints allows parts to be built at a rapid pace.  

At Endeavor 3D, our robust design services help optimize part designs and minimize unnecessary complexities, helping manufacturers reduce costs without compromising on quality. One way this is done is through batch production. 3D printers have build volumes that play a significant role in determining the cost of a project. Our experienced team of designers and engineers work directly with customers to consolidate parts in a way that reduces material consumption, increases printing efficiency, and optimizes part performance. 

Summary

The material selection process is the cornerstone of a successful 3D printing project. By carefully evaluating the mechanical properties, alongside cost optimization, manufacturers can unlock the full potential of 3D printing for their automotive applications.  

Partnering with experienced professionals like Endeavor 3D can significantly ease the selection process. We possess the expertise and resources to not only help you choose the correct material but also optimize your design to minimize costs and maximize performance. 

Contact us today for a FREE quote on your next 3D-printed project.  

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