This project was about finding out whether or not a change in technology for the production of plastic components would make sense for parts that are only being produced a couple of thousand times. Usually automotive products are built in massive amounts in order to bring part costs down, but some cars that are expensive and therefore rare, require custom components. Because there is a status quo in how to manufacture (or develop) automotive components, little thought has gone into whether or not this approach would have to be adapted with lower production numbers. I worked on this research project when I was a member of the automotive supplier Valeo Thermal Systems.

Although I later established a very abstract solution to the problem, I tackled the question of whether alternative manufacturing methods would be profitable by re-engineering an real-world part. I did that mainly because most of the people in charge of decision-making lacked the ability to absorb abstract information.  I chose to re-engineer a booster from the car depicted, a Rolls-Royce Phantom (presumably in its natural environment, the London traffic jam).

This project was one of the first Projects that I ever did, so that by now I already learned based on the mistakes made in this one. Therefore the steps taken do not fully reflect my current approach.

The Rolls-Royce vehicles feature two parts named boosters that are basically blowers, that are connected to air ducts that lead to the back seats. That way every rear passenger in the car can adjust its own ventilation settings. The part is now manufactured conventionally, using very expensive machinery and development that makes up most of the parts cost. I started looking at how this could be done different. I therefore took the parts or projects boundary conditions and re-engineered an part optimized to being manufactured with Laser Sintering or binder jetting.



Engineering such a product completely alone would surely be considered an unmanageable task, but I wanted to prove intellectual ability so I actually overdid the design of the parts. The picture above shows one of the sketches and gives only a slight sense of the parts complexity.  I finished engineering the part and printed it, documenting all steps. Looking at my data I discovered that the costs per part were quite large, which was unexpected because I thought I had engineered the part very well. It turned out that the boundary conditions were different from what I expected them to be. Overall my approach lacked method. I went on to re-engineer the part with the new boundary conditions.

The pictures above show the unimproved part. After I derived the actual boundary conditions I turned my focus to more abstract findings. I found out that in order to bring the part costs down, the final assembly would ideally be made up of easy to assemble, stackable SLS-parts, mixed with FDM-components. There is no doubt, that if the blower would have been manufactured that way, it would have been significantly cheaper.