Tesla Turns to 3D Printing to ‘Reinvent Carmaking’

Published on September 19, 2023 by Madeleine P.
Tesla 3D printing

As concerns about the environment have grown, so has the market for electric vehicles. Often considered to be more eco-friendly thanks to the fact that they do not need gas to function, in 2023 most car manufacturers have their own models to offer customers. However, Tesla, run by Elon Musk, continues to be the forefront in the field. Now it seems the company is hoping to distance itself even more from its competitors. According to a report in Reuters, Tesla is considering turning to sand 3D printing to further cut costs when creating electric vehicles, complimenting its already revolutionary processes.

3D printing has been used in a number of different forms already in the automotive sector. But often when we discuss it, it is focused on more direct processes. For example the use of FDM 3D printing for prototypes or end-use parts, such as the case at Ford. To our knowledge, this will be one of the first times that an American car manufacturer seeks to adopt AM for this indirect process by using sand 3D printing to create the molds before turning to other methods to create the actual part.

3D printing would complement Tesla’s existing car manufacturing methods (photo credits: Tesla)

Tesla Adopts Sand 3D Printing

As mentioned, it seems that additive manufacturing will not be used for the entire car manufacturing process. Rather, Tesla plans to use it to complement their pioneered process where huge presses mold the front and rear structures in a “gigacasting” process. This has already helped the company to slash production costs and put it ahead of competitors. This latest innovation would help them to widen the gap even further.

Specifically, Tesla seeks to adopt sand binder jetting, in order to make giant molds that will enable the company to die-cast nearly all the underbody of an EV in one piece rather than the more conventional 400 parts. As you may know, sand binder jetting is often adopted for the creation of significantly cheaper and more complex molds and casts. Indeed, one of the major applications has been as a complement to metal injection molding. Additionally, there are solutions allowing for extremely large parts, another benefit when it comes to create a one-piece mold.

Tesla may use sand 3D printing for the creation of large molds (photo credits: ExOne)

Cost is also the reason that Tesla may pursue this method for the creation of its cars. Though there has been no official comments on the matter, in Reuters’ report, two sources claimed that the new design and manufacturing techniques could bring development of the car from beginning to end to only 18–24 months. This would be a significant decrease compared to other car manufacturers.

The use of sand 3D printing for the creation of the mold will allow Tesla to overcome the fact that casting bigger structures often are prohibitively expensive. Indeed, that is the reason why it has not been attempted before now. But by adopting sand binder jetting, Tesla would allow them to reduce the estimated cost of about $4 million to only 3% of that with sand casting. Furthermore, the design validation cycle with sand casting takes less time compared to metal mold prototypes. That being said, it would also require Tesla to create a tailor-made aluminum alloy as Tesla’s current ones seem to react poorly with the sand molds, causing them to fail certain safety criteria.

It is also important to note that this does not yet seem to be confirmed. And even Reuters’ sources noted that it was just one possible manufacturing method being considered. Still, the use of sand binder jetting at Tesla would be an exciting advancement in car making, notably for electric vehicles. It could also have distinct benefits for consumers in the near future. Moreover, it seems that these discussions are part of a wider goal to unveil a Tesla model costing only $25000 in the coming years.

What do you think of Tesla’s possible use of sand 3D printing in the creation of its electric vehicles? Do you think the company will adopt the new method? Let us know in a comment below or on our LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter pages! Don’t forget to sign up for our free weekly Newsletter here, the latest 3D printing news straight to your inbox! You can also find all our videos on our YouTube channel.

*Cover Photo Credits: Tesla

The 2 comments

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

  1. Bernard Alex says:

    I’m really interested in 3D-Printing in fact where I am we have training sections for 3D-Printing but we have only one 3D-Printer which makes it hard to access it.

  2. Bernard Alex says:

    I’m really interested in 3D-Printing in fact where I am we have training sections for 3D-Printing but we have only one 3D-Printer which makes it hard to use it to the maximum.

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