Video: Ford unveils rapid prototyping for sheet metal parts

Here’s some interesting new technology that has huge potential all across the automotive specialty industry: rapid prototyping for sheet metal components. 


Rapid prototyping is a decades-long trend in manufacturing, but it’s gotten special attention in the media lately, what with the news reports about 3D printers that can manufacture firearm components  on the spot, seemingly from thin air. There’s nothing like hysteria to generate attention for nascent technologies.

However, rapid prototyping and production techniques are now used to form not only plastic laminates (such as sketchy gun receivers) but also castings, machinings, and other formed parts. And tomorrow, once the technology is mastered, sheet metal components could be manufactured—say, fenders and other body panels. One at a time, to any design, in hours instead of days or weeks, without expensive tooling or years of training.


There are multiple approaches currently in development, but the process shown here, which the automaker calls Ford Freeform Fabrication Technology  (F3T) works the metal sheet between a pair of processor-controlled syli. As the video suggests, so far the capabilities might be limited, but they’re just getting started. When the technology is perfected, imagine the implications for the custom car and auto restoration worlds: This could change everything. Watch.


3 thoughts on “Video: Ford unveils rapid prototyping for sheet metal parts

  1. I’ve seen this video at several websites in the past few days but you are the only one who recognized the meaning of it for the industry. This is why I read Mac’s MCG! As you noted this could change everything. Imagine taking a steel 32 Ford fender from art to part just by pushing a button. I want one!

  2. You had me reaching for the dictionary before I listened to the video. The plural of stylus is styli, not sylii.

    Typos aside, yes this is going to be fantastic for customization/restoration, when it is perfected and cost-effective.

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