3D printing technology from Canadian company Xaba enables additive manufacturing of chassis for the automotive industry.
The combination of a high percentage of mining-based materials such as metals, a waterfall design method and very energy demanding manufacturing processes makes it impossible for the automotive industry to become truly sustainable, scalable and on-demand.
In the following case study, Xaba’s proprietary innovative process is illustrated, consisting of a new design for manufacturing toolsets and an AI-driven large scale 3D printer enabling sustainable materials such as fibers, fiber-reinforced polymers, and metals integrated together into what is one of the most sustainable, innovative and advanced functional car chassis’ in today’s automotive industry.
When compared to the traditional metallic materials used by the automotive industry such as steel or aluminum, Xaba’s car body frame leverages much more sustainable materials such as fiber-reinforced polymers. Fiber-reinforced polymers do not require any mining processes and are significantly less energy-demanding in terms of their usage in manufacturing; no energy intensive operations such as forging or casting are required, making them very attractive from a total CO2 reduction point of view.
A fiber-reinforced polymer extruder for large scale additive manufacturing consumes an average of 30KW/hr to create most of the car body frame. In the case of a metal base car body frame, energy intensive processes have to be accounted such as metal forging consuming an average of 60KW/hr, casting, press bending and welding consuming an average of 1000KW/hr.
Fiber-reinforced polymers are one order of magnitude more sustainable than metals just based on manufacturing process cost alone. This is evident even without considering the extra energy consumption due to the massive logistical efforts required to manage the large number of parts included in a traditional metal car body frame.
The next generation of polymers will be composed of recycled plastic and reinforced with natural fibers such hemp or linen. Usage of these new materials will further reduce CO2 emissions and overall improve the sustainability of manufactured products.
No expensive molds or fixtures are required for the fabrication of Xaba’s polymers-based chassis as indicated in their proprietary manufacturing process, further reducing cost and the considerable amounts of CO2 needed to manufacture traditional molds and fixtures.
A key differentiator of Xaba’s proprietary manufacturing process is the alignment between the fibers contained in polymers with car frame stress streamlines, ensuring maximum mechanical performance from the 3D printed parts. Fiber reinforced polymers are anisotropic materials, consequently their mechanical properties are directly correlated with the fiber deposition direction. In Xaba’s car body frame, the fiber-reinforced polymer trajectories are computed to ensure alignment with stress streamlines resulting in mechanical performance comparable to metal based car chassis.
A single fabrication robotics workcell has been used to fabricate the entire car body frame. In order to scale the manufacturing process, it is sufficient to deliver the robotics workcell with their xTrude AI-control system, containing the know-how necessary to drive the workcell. It is akin to delivering a mobile phone or another similar product. No huge investment in equipment, skilled labor workforce or real estate is required.
By contrast, current metallic materials-based car body frames require a multitude of manufacturing processes such as press forming, bending, milling, special chemical treatment to prevent corrosion, welding, cutting, fastening and more. Each one of these processes requires dedicated production equipment and process parameters, making it impossible to scale it without huge investments in infrastructure, skilled labor workforce and real estate.
The manufacturing process used to fabricate the Xaba car body frame does not require expensive molds or the multitude of different manufacturing processes demanding expensive custom fixtures that make traditional metallic material-based car body frames costly and impossible to be “personalized”, or economically produced in low/mid volumes. The combination of polymer materials and large-scale additive manufacturing as indicated in our proprietary manufacturing process flow enables car body frames to be customized on demand, as each individual manufactured body can be made unique by simply modifying the digital machine program.
The Xaba car body frame has been manufactured utilizing a single robotics workcell in combination with an AI-driven process parameters control and is made of only 3 parts compared to the thousands of parts present in traditional car body frames. In contrast, Tesla’s state-of-the-art approach (giant metal casting) achieves a similar result by using giant dedicated machines, which require considerably higher amounts of energy, and do not allow for any personalization without replacing the huge, extremely expensive casting molds.
Using our manufacturing process, it is therefore possible to manufacture this innovative car body frame anywhere. No dedicated production plants, expensive transportation/logistics infrastructure or a huge skilled labor force are required.
Find out more about Xaba at xaba.ai.