Zare for the automotive: how to build a support structure in AM

The evolution of additive manufacturing offers a range of new possibilities for the sectors that demand high performance and structural complexity from their components. Recently, Zare has collaborated with MPLD to build a support to test automotive headlights, built almost exclusively thanks to AM technologies.

MPLD is a company that designs and builds structures for component qualification tests, especially for the automotive sector. The designers of MPLD, together with their customers, endeavor to identify effective and innovative solutions to rethink how to do tests.

To talk about the collaboration between MPLD and Zare, we turned to Marco Sala, mechanical designer and executive manager for MPLD. We thank Marco Sala for the interview and for the enthusiasm shown towards our service.

La struttura di supporto progettata da ZARE e MPLD

What is the support we are talking about?

It is a support study designed to perform vibration and water tightness tests on a car headlight and has been achieved at 90% thanks to additive manufacturing technologies. At the end of the processing, the final result is certainly excellent and from the tests carried out emerges the certainty of being able to pursue the path of additive manufacturing with increasing awareness and confidence in the results that it can guarantee.

Which technologies and which materials have you chosen for the realization of the support?

All the main body for the vibration tests was made in SLM while the bodywork replica required for water testing was realized thanks to FDM printers.
The choice of technologies and materials represented a crucial moment in the planning of the structure, above all because, being a relatively young production technique, experimentation was necessary to avoid incurring errors due to inexperience. The use of FDM was inevitable as a consequence of the considerable size the object needed, in the same way the ASA prevailed over the FDM materials range as it is capable of withstanding the high temperatures to which these supports are inevitably subjected. On the other hand, the metal materials used for the main body, specifically aluminum and stainless steel, are the only ones able to guarantee an adequate dynamic response of the structure.

La struttura di supporto progettata da ZARE e MPLD

What motivations have led you to choose Additive Manufacturing for the production of the component?

Until recently, to replicate the bodywork, the shaped and bent sheets were used in a "craft" manner. With the complication of car forms and the increasingly stringent demands of customers, traditional technologies no longer guaranteed the correct coupling between the headlight and the bodywork replica.
Through additive manufacturing, a greater degree of geometric precision is achieved, to which attention is added to the aesthetic component. With the AM, the surfaces reproduce exactly the shapes of the bodywork and the final result is not only functional but also pleasing to the eye.

Speaking of design, we often use the expression "think in additive", how do you decline this concept in your experience?

When you decide to rely on 3D printing it is not enough to turn to a service considering it as a mere executor, but it is necessary to understand that the additive covers the whole production cycle, including the design phase of the object.
Let me be clear, I believe that AM opens up a range of possibilities that cannot be overcome with traditional manufacturing techniques.The starting point with the additive is the idea, not the block to be excavated. This is the great conceptual innovation introduced by additive manufacturing but can also involve an increase in the complexity of the design phase. The choice of relying on a specialized center like Zare solves these critical issues because the constant comparison with the technical staff of the company has provided our designers with all the support necessary to obtain the perfect set-up of the component.

La struttura di supporto progettata da ZARE e MPLD

Why did you choose Zare?

We met Zare at BI-MU 2016 and since then we have started an increasingly significant partnership. In our work we deal with designing working prototypes, not mass-produced objects; the quality required by customers is very high and you cannot improvise. It therefore becomes fundamental to be able to rely on competent partners who have an in-depth knowledge of the subject so as to be able to advise the customer on the most appropriate solutions to the specific case.