3D Printing Aftermarket Car Parts

As the lifespan of machinery increases, so does the need for spare parts to replace failed or worn original components.

By Marcus Morrissette · April 27, 2015

As the lifespan of machinery increases, so does the need for spare parts to replace failed or worn original components. Manufacturers often incorporate spares into their original production lot; however, additional runs are sometimes required when demand for replacement parts exceeds forecasts. The builds for these components typically require large quantities, thus driving up cost and lead time. On-demand manufacturing offers a great alternative for cost-effective aftermarket parts.

Replacement car components are in high demand. The US automotive aftermarket industry, for example, totaled $318.2 billion in 2013, contributing more than 2.3% to GDP. Additionally, the average age of registered automobiles in the US has been growing steadily and is expected to reach 11.7 years by 2019. The overall durability of these vehicles is a contributing factor for allowing a particular model to remain in use, even as newer generations roll off the assembly line each year. But, the extended lifespan of the automobile has increased the window for component failure, increasing the need for aftermarket parts.

Automotive is not the only industry where the production and procurement of aftermarket parts creates problems for manufacturers and consumers— aerospace, marine, rail, agricultural and industrial equipment face similar concerns.

Although the automotive and aerospace aftermarket parts markets differ, demand for aircraft aftermarket parts is increasing rapidly. In 2014 the average fleet age of the world’s five largest airlines (by passengers carried) was 12.2 years. The lifespan of components is often lower.

Additionally, requirements placed on aircraft operators are far more stringent than those experienced by car owners due to stricter inspection and maintenance guidelines and more demanding part specifications. High tooling costs and long lead time frequently drive up the price of aftermarket parts. In most cases, low volume production may not justify the tooling costs for a new build, and in certain instances, the original supplier may no longer be in business.

3D Printing, also known as additive manufacturing, and traditional machining offer an innovative solution for both OEMs and consumers seeking cost-effective spare parts. With tooling costs largely driving the high price of aftermarket components, OEMs can harness the benefits of 3D printing to produce low volume spare parts on an as-needed basis. This has the potential to dramatically shrink the supply chain, thereby freeing up resources associated with the production, delivery, and warehousing of parts.

Siemens Sgt50800h gas turbine
Sgt50800h gas turbine; photo credit: Siemens

Furthermore, OEMs have the opportunity to secure profit from the production and sale of an aftermarket components while also protecting their IP and fending off competition from 3rd party manufacturers who reverse-engineer and sell components at prices that OEMs often cannot match with traditional manufacturing methods.

Industry leading manufacturers are exploring additive manufacturing for the cost-effective repair of complex components. Siemens, for example, now utilizes metal 3D printing to replace the burner tips for its SGT-800 industrial gas turbine: “Selective laser melting allows the new tip to be – 3D printed – onto the old burner. This greatly simplifies and speeds up the repair, by a factor of about ten, – according to Vladimir Navrotsky, head of Technology & Innovation at Siemens Energy Service Oil & Gas and Industrial applications.

Xometry utilizes a combination of traditional machining and additive manufacturing to transform the aftermarket parts market by reducing price, lead-time, and excessive inventory. We have created an instant quoting system for comparing build options using various materials, quantities or revisions.

Posted in Additive

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