If there was one industry that’s seen the most revolutionary developments within the last year, the automotive industry would certainly be up for the running. Among others, these include a fully-3D printed concept car from Local Motors, advancements in electric cars and pricing models from Tesla, the announcement of self-driving cars from Google and Apple and of course, the increased use of additive manufacturing for creating one-off parts for some of the world’s fastest race cars. Now, it’s come to light that Honda Access - a division of Honda that focuses on car and motorcycle accessories - has been actively using additive manufacturing technology to gain a competitive advantage with car and motorcycle accessory designs using a Stratasys 3D printing system to improve the development efficiencies and synchronize the development schedule of the accessories.
Honda, which was founded in 1948, was born out of the dream of creating usable technologies as a means of serving people and making lives easier. The use of 3D printing in their own development processes only further reinstates the company’s belief in the fact.
The Honda Accessories development center, which is headquartered in Saitama Prefecture, Japan, manufactures accessories for Honda's cars, motorcycles and other items around the globe. To maximize customization efficiency, the company uses a Stratasys Objet Eden500V 3D printer - a printer normally used for dental purposes - which ultimately ended up substituting the existing CNC machines.
"Producing prototype parts by CNC machines entailed excessive effort and cost, full-time operators are required to monitor the production on-site. 3D printing speeds up the prototyping process, it allows us to test and modify the design rapidly and cost-effectively. The development of accessories is accelerated which can synchronize with that of the vehicle itself," said Hiroshi Takemori, Senior Researcher of Product Planning Department, Design Group.
"The 3D printer's ability to create fine details, ease to remove support material and printing accuracy are all critical to product verification. Design quality has improved significantly and the large printer tray size allows us to create large parts, such as wheels up to 14 inches. 3D printing technology has become indispensable for our business."
Considering that the team designs up to 300 accessories for each Honda car model each year alone, it becomes clear just how much of an impact 3D printing can have on their development times. Among other accessories that the team designs include accessories required by specific local markets, accessories for driver intention, accessories for climate and road surface conditions and accessories for different traffic conditions.
"Honda Access is a perfect example of how 3D printing is an enabler for businesses looking to gain competitive advantage through streamlining of manufacturing processes," added Hiroaki Katayama, President and CEO of Stratasys Japan.
"Cost-effective and speedy customization for the different geo markets is key to success for Honda Access; and 3D printing has proved to be one of the winning contributors. Committed to customer excellence, we are happy that we succeeded in facilitating customers to streamline the manufacturing process while enhancing customer satisfaction."
Although the majority of this 3D printing happens behind the scenes and doesn’t actually make it down the chain to the end user, it’s only a matter of time before additive manufacturing becomes a viable option for creating custom automotive accessories on demand.

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