During this month’s AM Focus Automotive, we are mapping the most accurate and up to date scenario for automotive additive manufacturing in final part production. We presented an analysis of the latest progress made by each major automaker group and some of the key activities—either publicly disclosed or confirmed by reliable sources. This episode is dedicated to the Italian American group’s FCA additive manufacturing. In the previous episodes, we’ve looked at Volkswagen, General Motors, Daimler Benz, Ford, BMW and PSA. In the final episode, we will present and exclusive look at additive manufacturing at JLR.
The FCA Group – Fiat Chrysler Automotive – was formed by the merger between the Italian Fiat Group, which also includes the brands Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Lancia and Iveco, and the American group Chrysler, which includes Dodge and Jeep among others. The Group is currently in the process of merging with PSA.
FCA additive manufacturing activities are quite secretive. As far as 3dpbm could understand, they are mainly concentrated in the Fiat Design for Additive Program, at the company’s Italian factory in Turin, where the AM and materials team have been carrying out work to validate polymer and metal materials for use in final part production for several years. Information is limited, however, Fiat was the first adopter of 3D printing for prototyping in Italy and one of the first in the world. The company has built upon this experience, experimenting with both metals and polymers for final part production.
Besides known and well-established application cases for use of FDM and PolyJet technologies for custom tooling, relevant cases have emerged in relation to both the Jeep and Fiat brands using HP multijet fusion technology for serial production of parts. In particular, Jeep, acquired in the Chrysler merger, revealed that it has been using HP multijet fusion technology for part production since 2017, for an average of four to five print jobs per week, using nylon 12.
Fiat also reportedly relies on external service providers, such as 3D Systems on Demand, which is conveniently located near Turin, for short production runs of polymer parts in SLA and SLS technology. Fiat has carried out significant work on AM for tooling and part production through its high-end brands Ferrari and Maserati. Ferrari also uses AM for its Formula 1 motorsports division, although the full extent of adoption has never been fully disclosed. Renishaw reported that two of its metal powder bed fusion systems were in operation at Ferrari F1; Stratasys has reportedly also sold several systems to both Ferrari and Maserati through local distributors.
Alfa Romeo, another one of Fiat’s brands, has been somewhat more forthcoming with information. Several years ago, the company released a detailed description of how it used AM to develop the new Alfa Giulia model’s grille. More recently, the Alfa Romeo Sauber Formula 1 team has added five industrial SLA 3D printers from 3D Systems as well as four modular metal PBF systems from Additive Industries. In fact, Sauber Engineering is now positioning itself as a leading AM service provider.
More recently FCA presented the Fiat Centoventi concept, which leverages 3D printing as a mass customization option. The car features a as many as 114 Mopar designed accessories – including sound system, dashboard and door storage compartments, seat cushions, etc. – that can be purchased on-line and fitted by customers themselves. What’s more, basic accessories such as cup-holders or paper-holders, for example, can be produced using a 3D printer at home, at the local dealership or at a specialist printing shop. This represents an entirely new business model for auto accessories, enabling them to be resold or traded on the Web and creating a real community of brand fans or connoisseurs of Fiat’s Italian design.