3D printing technologies are being integrated into processes for designs and manufacturing for Bentley Motors. These technologies greatly simplify the making of complex components and give manufacturing companies massive room for innovation and design process simplification.
In 2016, Stefan Sielaff, design director at Bentley, discussed its “The Future of Luxury” project, which showcased a concept of what the automaker’s 2036 model might look like. Bentley is going a completely autonomous route where the steering wheel is irrelevant so the car would not have one.
This concept gives Bentley Motors the room to innovate and move away from traditional car interior concepts. The interior is a sort of lounge with two sofas separated by a coffee table and lined with wood and leather.
Attaining this design will be achieved by using 3D-printed components, such as the car’s door hinges, grill and moving parts that facilitate or inhibit the passage of air for cooling or drag reduction.
3D printing parts for its vehicles is not a new practice for Bentley, but a continuation of what the company has done since 2013 at its design studio in Crewe, England. There, several engineers use two 3D printers from Stratasys Ltd. to easily and quickly simulate exactly how different parts will look and function prior to actual production.
“The accuracy of the Objet30 enables us to take a full-size part and scale it down to produce a one-tenth scale model,” David Hayward, operations and projects manager at the Bentley Design Studio on the 3D printers they use.
“Once we have approval at this scale, we can move onto our larger Objet500 to produce one-third scale models, full-sized parts and parts that combine different material properties.”
Hayward says the printers’ high-precision capabilities allow any interior or exterior part to be fabricated and prototyped in miniature—from headlamps, grilles and door mirrors, to moldings, emblems, and shifters. Parts are printed in plastic (ranging from clear material to ABS) or rubber.
The Objet500 printer combines different material properties in a single 3D print to produce items as different as a full-size tailpipe trim or a rubber tire on a wheel rim. Its large tray (500 by 400 by 200 millimeters) is ideal for applications requiring large parts, mixed trays or large throughput.
More than 100 material options are available, including rigid opaque, transparent, rubber-like, digital and specialty biocompatible materials.
All three models in the Objet500 series (Connex 1, 2 and 3) feature PolyJet triple-jetting technology, which enables the precise printing of complex parts with three materials simultaneously.
The technology also allows Bentley designers to simulate rubber with different levels of hardness, elongation and tear resistance in order to produce parts with various tensile strengths.
“We’ve even developed designs for actual glassware and the decanter using the clear material,” adds Hayward.
The accuracy and versatility of a high-end rapid prototyping machine, with a small footprint, adds very well to their advantage.
“Stratasys’ rapid prototyping systems allow us to develop things in a totally new way,” concludes Kevin Baker, design model manager at Bentley’s design studio. “With this technology, we can exactly simulate how the car will look.”