DETROIT — In a microwave-sized chamber in a suburban Detroit business park, a technology is in development that could change automotive manufacturing.
EOS GmbH is demonstrating a new twist on "additive manufacturing," aka 3-D printing. Instead of printing in plastic, as usual, EOS is printing in metal.
EOS is a leading manufacturer of the machines that use lasers to transform plastics and powderized metals into whatever shapes a mind can create. Its U.S. office in Novi, Mich., is a tech center for EOS' automotive business.
For more than a decade, the auto industry has used plastics-based 3-D printers for rapid design prototyping. But advances in the technology have opened up new materials, namely powderized metals such as aluminum, titanium, steel and cobalt chrome which, when solidified by the laser, retain the metal's inherent properties.
It may represent a way for the auto industry to leapfrog some traditional ways it designs, builds and supports vehicles through their life cycle.
"There's a lot of re-education that engineers need to go through to begin thinking in terms of additive manufacturing," says Glynn Fletcher, president of EOS of North America.