Additive manufacturing is transforming the automotive after sales market

(Image credit: TransForged)

TransForged is a company that is utilizing additive technologies to forge new opportunities in the automotive sector. Founded in 2015, the focus of TransForged is specifically on designing and manufacturing customized, complex products for high-end and elite automotive marques to produce a new standard in performance accessories at attractive prices.

With more than 15 years of experience in the automotive industry across the team, TransForged LLC, based in the USA and proud to promote ‘Made in America’, is a custom auto shop operating a fully equipped facility. With a range of advanced technology and equipment to support its remit for producing high-quality, superior fit and fully functional customized automotive parts, additive manufacturing (AM) is dominant in the fulfilment process.

Indeed, according to chief executive officer (CEO) Mick Harzall, ‘TransForged came about with the intent of disrupting some of the 3D printing industry and to push the limits of 3D printing to produce low-cost, innovative automotive products for the higher end, performance-orientated market.'

This intent is coupled with a passion, matching that of their clients, for improving the driving experience. The automobile after market is a demanding one, and the TransForged team meet these demands at every stage of the process, from initial concept, industrial design, prototyping and production.

Experienced designers quickly transform smart ideas into prototype concepts. Prototypes are tested rigorously, and ideal products are brought to market with robust and elegant designs. Harzall explained further: ‘At TransForged, we engineer and build aerodynamically optimized components from strong lightweight, composite materials, maximizing the performance of each individual vehicle to produce the ultimate in auto expression. We take pride in each and every aspect of the production of our elite products. We feel that goes a long way in differentiating TransForged from all of the other sellers out there.’

One of the latest innovative product series from TransForged is testament to this philosophy, namely the exclusive production and release of rear tail lights for Lotus models, specifically the Exige, Elise and Evora. This project involved extensive design work to ensure a precise fit and ultimate functionality, before committing to physical production using sophisticated 3D printing processes and specialized materials. The company claims that its research shows that this has never been achieved before.

The main reason driving the development of this project was that feedback highlighted how the factory configuration of the rear lamps often results in burnt out LEDs and they do not fit the car correctly, leaving unsightly gaps. It was a challenge, but as Harzall said: ‘We love challenges and pushing the barriers of AM.’ Moreover, following the tail lights being fitted and displayed on Lotus cars, TransForged has been approached by other companies requesting customized lamps.

Harzall continued: ‘It’s the combination of spending time with the cars and understanding how a specific client wants to differentiate themselves through their elite car, as well as understanding what needs to be improved or can be enhanced aesthetically. Many of our global clients send us pictures of their pride and joy and ask us what we can do to make it unique. Their biggest priority is to look unique when attending car-shows and to make a point.   

‘During the initial design phase, we identify the purpose of the part, is it purely aesthetic or is there actual functionality involved? If the former, then the process is relatively straightforward but always involves direct and ongoing communications with the client to keep them fully engaged. This process continues until they sign off and production then begins. If the job pertains to a functional part then, obviously, more work is involved. We have to ensure the integrity of the part, the use of correct materials and the strength to weight ratio necessary for this part to be really successful and have a dual purpose, aesthetic and functional.’

In terms of additive technologies, TransForged operates a combination of stereolithography (SLA) and fused deposition modeling (FDM) systems in-house. The latter is in the form of the industrial systems from MarkForged, which enables the production of parts in variations of exotic plastics as well as composite materials including Kevlar, carbon fiber and fiberglass.

Harzall concluded: ‘Additive manufacturing allows us to rapidly prototype parts from conception to release and gives us complete control over the timeline and overall costs involved. The time-to-market is greatly reduced in comparison with traditional methods available. We are able to have consumer-facing products at a far greater pace and push the limits of 3D printing to an extremely complex level.’

About Rachel Park

Rachel is a passionate advocate of additive manufacturing/3D printing technologies and the industry that has sprung up around it. However, as the hype and hyperbole has gathered momentum, her aim is always to offer a reasoned voice in the midst of inflated expectations and to cut through the noise in order to provide a realistic outlook of how things are.