This is based on the fact that HP printed 10,000 tiny metal 1:87 scale replicas (see above) of the Volkswagen ID.3 electric car for marketing purposes, although the real purpose was to demonstrate that Metal Jet technology is ready for commercial-scale production (with the run being completed in four weeks as an initial milestone).
A roadmap (appropriately) details where HP and Volkswagen are going with this in the future, with the initial stage of metal 3D printing being used to produce cosmetic parts like the aforementioned model cars for promotional purposes, or the likes of car keys.
The next stage, which is pegged as starting in 2019+ – so presumably imminently – entails the production of car parts like gearshift knobs and mirror mounts, and then in 2021, actual structural parts of cars will be 3D-printed (with impressive advancements in terms of weight-saving).
Dr. Martin Goede, head of technology planning and development at Volkswagen, commented: “Our vision to industrialize additive manufacturing [3D printing] is quickly becoming a reality with HP Metal Jet, it is a game changer for the automotive industry. The pace of innovation by HP and advanced capabilities of the technology have exceeded our expectations. We are meeting our milestones and are actively identifying and developing functional parts for production.”
So progress is being made rapidly, then, and we’ve seen similar strides being made elsewhere in the automotive arena. That includes a recent 3D printing breakthrough in the production of high-resolution parts using very light continuous fiber composite materials that could be used in sports cars or racing bikes.
And another firm already makes some astoundingly smart-looking and super-lightweight 3D-printed wheels for high-end sports cars like the McLaren P1.