Feb 12, 2018 | By Benedict

American automaker Ford is using 3D printing, 400 new robots, and enhanced data analytics to increase production of its new Lincoln Navigator and Ford Expedition SUVs. $25 million has been invested to meet production targets.

“Surging customer demand” is the reason Ford cites for increasing production of two of its latest SUVs: the new Lincoln Navigator and Ford Expedition. To meet that demand, $25 million has been pumped into the automotive company’s Kentucky Truck Plant, taking the total investment in that facility to $925 million. It’s a big project, and one with some neat machinery being installed behind the scenes.

Helping the Kentucky Truck Plant meet its new production targets, which have been increased by 25 percent since fall, are a number of new technologies. These include 400 new robots for SUV production, as well as enhanced data analytics that help the plant operate more efficiently.

Most excitingly, however, is Ford’s use of a Stratasys Fortus 380mc 3D printer. In Ford’s own words, additive manufacturing “enables workers to make parts and tools more quickly and cheaper,” giving them the ability to 3D print individual parts for tools that are necessary to keep the plant running.

In the past, manufacturing a prototype part at Ford using traditional methods has taken eight to 16 weeks at a cost of more than $250,000 in tooling alone. Using 3D printing for a similar part can take days (sometimes just hours), and can be done for a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

Wayne McKinney, a tool maker at Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant, has been getting to grips with the Fortus 380mc since its installation, and has used the 3D printer to come up with new solutions to age-old problems. He says parts for certain applications can go from concept to design to printing in the space of just two hours.

The Navigator and Expedition SUVs have been some of the better performers in Ford’s recent history, hence the action taken to increase the number of them on the market.

The average price for a Navigator, which is most popular in Texas, Florida, and California, is $77,400, while the Expedition goes for around $57,700. 3D printers like the Stratasys Fortus 380mc are available in the hundreds of thousands of dollars range.

Last year, Ford tested out Stratasys’ Infinite Build 3D printing system for large-scale car parts, while newly appointed Ford CEO Jim Hackett has indicated a willingness to experiment with futuristic technologies like additive manufacturing.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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