The tool making division of Audi has used 3D printing technology to create a half-size scale model of the 1936 Auto Union Typ 3C race car.
Much of the Typ 3C scale model was created by a 3D printer that uses a selective sintering laser to melt layers of metallic powder. The grains of the powder have a diameter of between 15 and 40 microns, or around half that of a human hair.
The company is able, at present, to print in either steel or aluminium, and can produce items with a maximum length of 240mm and a height of 200mm.
According to the luxury automaker, this typing of printing can make components with complex geometries that are impossible or difficult to produce using more traditional techniques. Audi also claims that components 3D printed this way have a higher density than similar items made by either die casting or hot forming.
The car maker hasn’t detailed how long it took to print the replica, nor does it state which components were created through 3D printing.
Audi says that it is now exploring whether there are production possibilities for parts made by 3D metal printers, especially for complex components. If 3D printed parts do wind up in production Audi cars, they will eventually be used by other brands owned by the Volkswagen Group.
At this year’s Detroit auto show, we saw a running 3D printed replica of the Shelby Cobra made from carbonfibre-reinforced plastic. We also spoke to one of the lead researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory about the possibilities that 3D printing might open up for both small and large scale automakers.