The global luxury goods market is experiencing a rapid post-pandemic recovery and could reach €380 billion by 2025, according to a report published by the Italian luxury goods manufacturers’ foundation, Fondazione Altagamma, and strategic consulting firm Bain & Company. In this growing market, the role of 3D printing in the luxury sector is becoming increasingly important. From accessories to eyewear to haute couture pieces to sports car components, additive manufacturing has a lot to offer to the demanding luxury market.
Companies such as Dior, Louis Vuitton, Bentley and Porsche have already dared to take the plunge, persuaded by the many benefits 3D printing technologies have to offer. Yet, many other well known brands still refuse to make use of the innovative option. Why are those companies still holding back from these opportunities? How can additive manufacturing be used in the luxury sector anyway? To get to the bottom of that question, we’ll look at three of the luxury industry’s fundamental pillars: cars, jewelry and haute couture, to learn a little more about how luxury companies are implementing new technologies and the value they’re getting from doing so.
3D Printing And Luxury Cars
Many luxury and sports car manufacturers tend to demand very high standards. This category of car manufacturers needs parts that are both visually striking and extremely durable. Additive manufacturing is the perfect choice to meet these expectations. The technologies make it easy to manufacture complex shapes and minimize weight by applying material only where it is really needed. In addition, 3D printing offers a cost-effective way to produce small volumes.
3D Printed Applications in the Automotive Sector
An important benefit of the use of 3D printing technologies in the automotive sector is the ability to print much more customized components from the factory, giving the car unique performance characteristics. British luxury car manufacturer Bentley is one of those who have already successfully implemented it. Consumers spend thousands of dollars each year to customize their vehicles, and manufacturers can benefit from that by using additive manufacturing to their advantage. Another application of 3D printing is the creation of hard-to-find or obsolete parts. There are a growing number of vintage car collectors and manufacturers are working to restore and preserve certain models that are considered gems in the eyes of collectors. Besides those two possibilities, another option for the use of additive manufacturing is becoming more and more popular: 3D printed cars. Perhaps one of the best examples here is Divergent, a California-based high-end sports car company that makes ultra-lightweight chassis and has an ambitious goal to design all of its car parts using 3D technologies. But Divergent is not alone: 1016 Industries have also made 3D printing available to luxury brands such as McLaren, offering optimized final parts.
“Our focus for this project was exploring how we could employ 3D printing in the automotive world, and the results creating these McLaren 720S parts are impressive. The 3D-printing process has not only allowed us to manufacture faster and more efficiently, but we’ve also improved quality. The 3D technology has allowed each 1016 Industries part to be even more accurately made, with each part printed in real scale to validate our CAD and CFD work.” – Peter Northrop, founder of 1016 Industries.
In addition to that, 3D technologies can provide fully functional prototypes for rigorous testing and simulation, tooling for limited edition components, and low-volume custom production parts for final use in vehicles.
The Most Used Technologies
There are several 3D printing technologies used to produce automotive parts, depending of course on the end application. For example, Porsche uses Powder Bed Fusion to create the pistons for the 911 GT2 RS from metal powder. British luxury car designer Vital Auto uses SLA technology, also known as stereolithography, to produce other automotive parts such as air vents or door seals. Another of the most widely used technologies in this field is FDM technology, which is mostly used in the prototyping phase, as it is a fast and efficient way to physically lay out components before the final production.
The Benefits of 3D Printing in the Automotive Sector
3D printing shortens lead times: Any part can be available in a matter of days or hours, even the scale model of a complete car, and at a lower cost. In addition, 3D printing makes it possible to work with thinner sections, more customized and tailored designs, and to test different versions quickly and cheaply. One example is Bugatti, which 3D printed its eight-piston monoblock brake caliper in titanium, saving money and improving performance by reducing the weight of the part and making it stronger.