Automotive Personalization Brought to Life with 3D Printing

Have you ever wondered what Henry Ford would say about the automobiles of today? When he engineered the Model T, did he think cars would evolve into a huge part of American life beyond transportation? Now cars are more than just a way to get from point A to point B. We race them, collect them, go for scenic drives in them—we spend so much time in our automobiles, we even give them names. One company fueling that passion for cars is Ai Design. It designs, engineers and builds customized interior and exterior features to create highly-personalized luxury vehicles. Ai takes a customer’s vision for what their ideal vehicle would look like and how it would function, and makes it a reality.
transportation

"We decided to work with Stratasys Direct Manufacturing for FDM parts because we knew it had the expertise, flexibility and finishing services in place to produce end-use parts and hit the ground running."

A Challenge Only Fit for 3D Printing 


Each luxury vehicle has very unique engineering and design, from the engine to the interior. This poses a challenge for creating new, customized features. Ai has to design and build around complex geometries and shapes to integrate parts that look and feel like they were a part of the original design. “No two customer parts are the exact same. Even if we’re working on the same model, make and year, the geometries can differ,” said Todd Henderson, director of sales and marketing for Ai Design.

Three years ago Ai Design decided to move from making unique parts using traditional methods, such as CNC machining and even by hand, to 3D printing through Stratasys Direct Manufacturing. Producing quality parts needed to easily integrate with complex interiors by hand took countless hours and CNC machining delivery times were dependent on the shop’s backlog. They obviously couldn’t consider injection molding because it would be impossible to amortize tooling costs for one-off parts. 3D printing was the only solution that would not only reduce lead times but also give them more freedom to design and build parts compatible with complex geometries.

Ai tested various 3D printing technologies and service bureaus before deciding on Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). FDM met Ai’s requirement of using real, engineering-grade thermoplastics that are compatible with a variety of critical post processes, such as sanding, priming and painting. “We decided to work with Stratasys Direct Manufacturing for FDM parts because we knew it had the expertise, flexibility and finishing services in place to produce end-use parts and hit the ground running,” said Henderson.

Electronic Luxuries

Since then, Stratasys Direct Manufacturing has built a variety of parts for Ai Design, shortening its development time—in some cases by weeks—and reducing costs on one-off parts by up to 40 percent. Some of the most popular parts Stratasys Direct Manufacturing has built are interior components for electronic devices, such an iPad mini housing, a speaker panel and a radar pod housing.

“Ai Design is a great example of the many unique and niche applications 3D printing has to offer” said James Grimm, account manager for Stratasys Direct Manufacturing . “It’s been really fun to see their custom solutions come to life and enabled by the technology.”

iPad Mini Integration Parts


Ai Design’s client wanted to integrate an iPad Mini into a Land Rover Defender 110. They first 3D scanned the interior dash and iPad to collect the precise geometries to fit a new design. Ai then designed a CAD model for the new center dash, which effectively locks the iPad into position, charges and ejects the device. The ABS plastic parts were 3D printed, sanded and painted at Stratasys Direct Manufacturing.

Radar Pod Housing


Ai Design incorporated a radar pod into the Ferrari FF interior which has limited room for added features. Ai found an effective location for the radar system, 3D scanned and measured the geometries, and designed a custom housing for the radar pod. Stratasys Direct Manufacturing 3D printed, sanded and primed the plastic part to the exact dimensions of the Ferrari interior.

Speaker Protection


Ai Design’s client wanted to incorporate Dynaudio Esotar tweeter pods (speakers) into the doors of a Range Rover HSE. Ai designed and fitted speakers to the doorframe and developed custom acoustic grills in CAD. Stratasys Direct Manufacturing 3D printed the ABS-M30 grills to Ai’s exact dimensions and tolerances. “The speaker grills would have been nearly impossible to make using other methods due to tolerances,” said Henderson.

Tech Central


An Ai Design customer wanted to create a tech docking hub with audio controls in the back seat of a Cadillac Escalade. Not only did the project involve some heavy wiring and audiovisual configuration by the Ai team, it also required plastic parts compatible with the new electronic components. Stratasys Direct Manufacturing built the iPhone and iPad holding structures in ABS-M30 using FDM and the faceplate that houses necessary wiring and control modules in Digital ABS using PolyJet technology.

 

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