Ford Motor Co. is evaluating a new additive manufacturing technology that it says overcomes the three significant limitations of the 3D printing process, which seems almost Neanderthal in comparison.
The new technology, which was announced year by a startup called Carbon 3D, is called Continuous Liquid Interface Production or CLIP, and uses ultraviolet light to create a pattern in a bath of liquid photopolymers. It diverges from stereolithography, the original additive manufacturing process created by Chuck Hull in 1986, in that it uses oxygen to permeate the specialty polymers and create shapes. In another major fifference, there is no layer-by- layer addition to create shapes. In Carbon 3D speak, the parts are grown.
The results seem stunning.
- For one, the process is said to be 100 times faster than 3D printing, which has been famously described as about as fast as melting ice.
- In another major difference, Ford says the parts have significantly better mechanical properties than parts made by 3D printing.
- The third major benefit may be a much bigger palette of plastics that can be used. Work on the materials, however, is still in the embryonic stage.
An additive manufacturing research team led by Ellen Lee has used an early access CLIP machine to produce elastomeric grommets that protect wiring located near car doors.
In an interesting illustration of the technology’s potential usefulness,the Ford research team used CLIP to prototype and then manufacture a tube that could supply oil to an existing V8 engine in a new vehicle design in which the engine sits lower and farther back. The tube is made with rigid polyurethane and unspecified elastomeric materials.
CLIP sounds expensive. No one is talking about the cost.
Ellen Lee will discuss Ford’s new additive manufacturing approach in a presentation this week at the annual Automotive Composites Conference held by the Society of Plastics Engineers Automotive Division in Novi, Michigan.