Written by Thembani Magazi – December 23, 2020
Reviewed by Kfir Kedem
3D printing is undoubtedly the future of manufacturing. Additive manufacturing is set to completely revolutionise the way we prototype and make parts for automotive production. Porsche have so far been early adopters of this ground-breaking technology as they have produced their first complete housing for an electric drive using 3D printing. The engine-gearbox unit is produced using the additive laser fusion process and has passed all the quality and stress tests without any problems. This of course is an impressive stride forward in the producibility and usability of 3D printed parts and the optimized electric drive could potentially be used in a limited-edition super sports car.
No other manufacturing process offers as many possibilities and such fast implementation as 3D printing. Design data can be fed to the printer directly from the computer without intermediate steps such as tool making. The parts are then manufactured layer by layer from aluminium alloy powder. This makes it possible to manufacture shapes such as housings with integrated cooling ducts in almost any geometry.
Every layer is melted and then fused with the previous layer. A number of different technologies are already available for this purpose. The drive housing was manufactured from high-purity metal powder using the laser metal fusion process (LMF). Here, a laser beam heats and melts the powder surface corresponding to the part contour.
The additively manufactured alloy housing is more lightweight than a conventionally cast part and thus reduces the overall weight of the drive by approximately 10%.
Due to special structures that have only become possible due to 3D printing, the stiffness in highly stressed areas has been doubled. Another advantage of additive manufacturing is the fact that numerous functions and parts can be integrated. This considerably reduces assembly work and directly benefits part quality.
3D printing opens up new opportunities in development and manufacture of low-volume parts. Porsche is intensively driving forward the use of additive manufacturing for optimization of highly-stressed parts.
Auto Trendy’s take:
We’ve already seen the success of 3D printing with Porsche’s 911 GT2 RS sporting a pristine set of printed pistons. In the near future we can expect that Porsche’s high-performance cars are to be made even more extensively with specialised 3D printers as their partners in production. The parts allow for various steps of prototyping to be bundled into one saving costs and time. We cannot wait to see the next high quality make from Porsche and to share this with you.