The electric car will be worth€3.3 trillion by 2044. These, at least, are the estimates of IDTechEx, a British company specialising in market analysis. It is clear, therefore, that there are many companies that are trying to ride the technological leap that animates the world of mobility to grab even a very small piece of a very large pie.

Among these are those operating in the 3D printing sector. Also evolving rapidly, they can offer real advantages in the production of battery-powered vehicles and their components. Let's see which ones, with due consideration.

What 3D printing is for

3D printing is rapidly gaining ground in the automotive field. As Lorenzo Migliarini, territory manager at Massivit, a company specialising in this field, explains, '3D printing offers undeniable advantages in several areas of mobility. It is increasingly used for prototyping and small series production. This is why, when it comes to production, it is particularly suitable for cars made in limited numbers, where industrial moulds are more difficult to pay for'.

This is why it attracts more and more companies working in motorsport, for example. On racing cars, speed of execution and production of only a few parts at a time are needed.

"In racing, 3D printing is also gaining ground in terms of tooling," adds Migliarini. It allows customised tools to be made for specific applications with a certain ease.

The advantage of lightness

On a more general note, 3D printing can enable the production of lighter components. The advantage, especially when it comes to electric cars, is clear: less weight means greater mileage.

3D printing can also produce large and complex components. They reduce welding and fastening methods, with further advantages in both weight reduction and speed of manufacture. This greater simplicity, by analogy, brings to mind the giga casting method introduced by Tesla, although the techniques are completely different.

"3D printing also shortens development times," says Migliarini, "It is faster, as well as less expensive, to make prototypes and style models.

XEV Yoyo 2023

The XEV Yoyo has 3D-printed body panels

The obstacles to 3D printing

Speaking of 3D printing, however, there are also obstacles to overcome. 3D printing works with an increasing number of materials, but for certain things, such as carbon fibre or particular steel or aluminium alloys, one still has to resort to traditional methods. On the other hand, 3D printing processes are also gaining ground in support of this type of processing.

Moreover, as already mentioned, it is not suitable for mass production. 'For high volumes, it is better to sustain a high initial investment and then produce each individual part at infinitely lower costs than with 3D printing,' concludes Migliarini. 'In certain areas, 3D printing is not competitive. Not yet, at least...