Ford Committed to Metal AM
Innovation is often the direct result of a commitment to find better ways to solve existing problems. And having an interest in finding ways to leverage metal AM is nothing new to Ford Motor Co. The global automaker has been a long-time user and an early adopter of 3D printing. Advancing from simple prototypes to applications now limited low-volume production parts are utilized in the F-150 Raptor and Shelby GT500 Mustang.
North American and European facilities are supplying tens of thousands of parts per year. Ford is expanding AM into its manufacturing facilities to support and enhance production processes too. Internal education has been launched within the workforce to advance the understanding of the technology and open opportunities to expand to more complex, higher volume and more physically demanding applications. The result is nearly one printer in every Ford facility throughout the world, and in many cases, multiple printers.
The fruits of Ford's commitment to additive innovation shine bright when looking at the results of a project it co-funded with ExOne, North Huntingdon, PA. The goal of the collaboration was to bring together a team of engineers, material scientists and manufacturing experts to develop a now patent-pending process for rapid and reliable binder jet AM and sintering of aluminum to 99% of theoretical density that delivers properties comparable to die casting.
Although a very common material within the automotive industry using traditional production methods, 6061 is a material that has been difficult for AM because of its reactive nature. Material evaluations are extremely important regarding exploration and expansion of additional applications for AM. As suitable materials become more available and as AM improve, more applications will be considered by Ford.