Ford’s new 3D printer can make car parts from sheet metal in just a few hours

Updated Jul 19, 2013

Ford metal 3D printerBy this point, everyone’s pretty familiar with 3D printing technology. It can be really useful for prototyping and designing new things, but also for restoring older things such as an automobile that needs a part that is no longer being made.

Ford wanted to take advantage of that type of technology in its prototyping process where, in the past, it took days to fashion metal parts for testing. But it needed parts made out of metal, not plastic like 3D printers produce. So the automaker developed the Ford Freeform Fabrication Technology (F3T) which uses a pair of robotic arms to fashion parts out of pieces of sheet metal.

A three-dimensional design is put together on the computer and then sent to the F3T machine and those robotic arms get to work. In a few hours, Ford engineers have a part they can test.

Matt Zaluzec, Ford’s senior technical leader in its Global Materials and Manufacturing Research division, said the automaker eventually wants to make the process fast enough to put to work on the assembly line. â€śThe ultimate goal is can you make this fast enough to stamp high-volume parts?” he said. “That’s a long way off.”

Check out the video below to see the machine in action.

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