A startup backed by Alphabet Inc.’s Google Ventures is developing a 3-D printing method that could have far-reaching affects in the automotive supply chain, reports The Wall Street Journal's Loretta Chao.
The ability to “print” parts within an assembly plant would drastically reduce transport and logistics costs for the auto industry, where car makers must source parts from dozens of suppliers around the world. But the most widely used version of the technology is ill-suited for mass production because objects are printed layer by layer, a slow process that also creates tiny fault lines that can crack when stressed.
Cost remains a concern.
Ron Harbour, partner at consulting firm Oliver Wyman, said the entire auto industry is researching for ways that 3-D printing could be used in production to save on expensive tooling costs. But with the amount of time it takes to print the parts, the process would still be more costly than traditional methods.
“If I need 300,000 [cars], I spend X-millions on tools to produce it, and I’m producing one every minute,” he said. 3-D printers may help avoid heavy tooling costs, but if they can’t accommodate that speed, “it’s still going to cost me a whole lot more.”