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3D printing solutions and applications for the automotive industry and beyond

When we speak about automotive, Continental is probably one of the first names that pops up in our mind. They develop and manufacture tires – they’re the fourth-largest worldwide producer -, brake and safety systems, interior electronics, and much more.

The constant focus on research and innovation is embedded in the DNA of a company founded in the 1871, that after 150 years is still bringing cutting-edge solutions to the varied fields of the automotive market.

Continental Engineering Services is a branch of the company with more than 1.800 employees that focuses on niche customers for engineering services, samples and series production. They started to investigate the 3D printing world already in 1996, with an SLA 3D printer.

Originally outsourcing all of the Selective Laser Sintering polymer parts production, Continental moved from the BUY to the MAKE strategy with the purchase of a ProMaker P4500 HT SLS 3D printer.

In few months, also thanks to the support of our process and application specialists, the Continental production center was able to print parts in different materials for sample and series applications:

  • PA12 for prototypes and tool needs
  • PA6 with glass beads for high temperature resistant parts
  • PA6 MF for high performance parts, thanks to mechanical properties that are close to the injection molded versions
  • PolyPropylene, for special applications, e.g. brake liquid tanks
ProMaker P4500 HT and 3D Printed liquid tank, courtesy of Continental Engineering Services

ProMaker P4500 HT and 3D Printed liquid tank, courtesy of Continental Engineering Services

“We see Prodways not only as a 3D printers manufacturer. With their engineering and applications team we established a direct and human relationship that has a true great value, allowing us to find the best solutions for every specific case.”

“Now it takes only 3 days to go from the CAD design to the physical part ready to be tested, and this shortens dramatically our time to market by a factor of 3 or 4.”
Kevin Veysseix, Continental Engineering Services

On the purely technical side, the driving factors for the choice of a ProMaker P4500 HT printer have been:

  • A printable volume of 72 liters
  • The high temperature configuration, that allows to 3D print parts with high performance materials like PA6
  • The Open Material Strategy, that brings the total freedom to experiment with different parameters, to find the pitch-perfect tuning for specific needs
  • And the ease of use, that combined with the first 3 points makes this machine a powerful yet accessible additive manufacturing tool

a different application: sls + thermoforming

While the direct print of a functional part is the most common use for an SLS printer, the Continental team shared with us another way they are using the ProMaker P4500 HT: the indirect production of thermoformed blisters for electronic components or control units.

“By combining SLS with Thermoforming technology, individually shaped blisters can now be produced much more quickly than before. Production previously took many weeks or even months, now you can hold the finished product in your hands in just a few days.”
says Stefan Kammann, head of the ADaM (Competence Center for Additive Design and Manufacturing)

3D printed thermoforming mold, courtesy of ADaM - Continental

3D printed thermoforming mold, courtesy of ADaM – Continental

Thermoformed blister, courtesy of ADaM - Continental

Thermoformed blister, courtesy of ADaM – Continental

The target is to produce easily blisters for different uses, like:

  • Trays for printed circuit boards (with ESD materials)
  • Classification systems
  • Packing units

Want to know more about Prodways’ automotive and mechanical additive manufacturing solutions?
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