CLIP and the Future of Additive Manufacturing in Automotive

February 8, 2016

At Carbon, we couldn’t be more excited about our partnerships in the automotive industry. We sat down with two of our resident experts to learn how Carbon is creating amazing new opportunities for the vehicles of the future.

At Carbon, we couldn’t be more excited about our partnerships in the automotive industry. We sat down with two of our resident experts to learn how Carbon is creating amazing new opportunities for the vehicles of the future.

Alex Huckstepp, a veteran of the 3D printing industry, and Sasha Seletsky, who came from vehicle development and production programs at Tesla, work together in driving sales and building strategies for partners like Ford and BMW. They shared some insight into their work at Carbon, and how they envision the future of Additive Manufacturing (3D printing) in automotive.

First, tell us a little about your roles at Carbon.

Alex: I lead Carbon’s Business Development program for the aerospace and automotive industries. Given how new and transformative our technology is, I work with people across the whole product development lifecycle, educating potential partners about the value our materials and process bring to their design, prototyping and manufacturing.

Sasha: I’m in strategic development for our product management group, which means I work with our customers in cases where their requirements for materials, hardware, or software fall outside of Carbon’s current capabilities. Those cases are interesting for us because one customer’s request for new capabilities often reflects a broader market that we aren’t addressing. My job is to prioritize the new capabilities that Carbon needs to develop, to unlock new applications in as many markets as possible.

Why does Carbon’s CLIP technology make sense for the auto industry?

Sasha: Auto companies are constantly looking to reduce their product development timeline – they want to expedite the process for creating a functional prototype, so they can learn more quickly and iterate on that design. Shortening the product development cycle means higher quality and more cost effective products for the automakers’ customers. We use CLIP to print parts that are mechanically very similar to injection molded parts. This allows our partners to achieve functional prototypes without the added step of cutting new tools for injection molding, which is a tremendous differentiator from other 3D printing technologies.

Manufacturers are also faced with the challenge of reducing an object’s mass and manufacturing costs. Looking through the last few decades of automotive development, plastics have replaced metals in many applications, because of the new geometries that injection molding of plastic unlocked as compared to stamping of sheet metal, that allowed for material and cost reduction. In much the same way, CLIP gives engineers design freedom to consolidate parts to reduce mass and cost, and unlock more functionality when compared with the design constraints of injection molding. The key is for us to engage closely with automotive engineers to demonstrate the design possibilities that CLIP unlocks.

Where is CLIP making the biggest impact to help Carbon’s automotive partners achieve better results?

Alex: CLIP technology enables our partners to produce high resolution, isotropic parts in production-grade materials. This is a new standard in the 3D printing industry that enables immediate solutions to longstanding problems. Automotive companies are excited to partner with us because we’ve developed breakthrough materials that can offer high levels of complexity and customization in production parts – we’re fundamentally changing the design and manufacturing process, and our customers are eager to see how CLIP can transform their business.

What potential applications for 3D printing are most exciting to you?

Sasha: Our technology lends itself well to mesh geometries, since they’re low in cross section and can be printed quickly. One interesting application is for the safety of car interiors. Right now, there are various types of foam being used in interior construction, but they’re not specifically designed to receive impact from the human body during a crash. With CLIP technology, we can design and print geometries that are rigid in daily use, but also collapse when impacted by a high load – creating end-use materials that are safer for the consumer and faster to make for the manufacturer. This is one potential application is really the sweet spot for our printer’s capabilities and will ultimately improve vehicle safety and save lives.

How would you sum up Carbon’s overall impact on the automotive industry?

Alex: We’re unlocking the potential of additive manufacturing by making materials that will define the next generation of product design and performance. Traditional manufacturing techniques have been a huge stifle on innovation – so many great products have never made it to market because we simply couldn’t figure out how to economically make them at scale.

Sasha: And who knows how many ideas haven’t been implemented because we simply couldn’t manufacture their design. We may even be able to go back and unlock inventions from history!