MINI Goes Big on 3D Printing

Although the auto industry uses a tremendous amount of 3D printing equipment, one avoids referring to it as “additive manufacturing” for the simple reason that “manufacturing” sounds like repetitive processing of goods in non-trivial volume, and given (1) the throughput of the equipment and (2) the number of vehicles that are produced in a given hour by any manufacturer whose products are sitting in the parking lot outside your window (OK, there are exceptions, like if you happen to be in Newport Beach), the auto industry has pretty much used the equipment for purposes of prototyping.

Although the auto industry uses a tremendous amount of 3D printing equipment, one avoids referring to it as “additive manufacturing” for the simple reason that “manufacturing” sounds like repetitive processing of goods in non-trivial volume, and given (1) the throughput of the equipment and (2) the number of vehicles that are produced in a given hour by any manufacturer whose products are sitting in the parking lot outside your window (OK, there are exceptions, like if you happen to be in Newport Beach), the auto industry has pretty much used the equipment for purposes of prototyping. Full stop.

But MINI may be the first to go beyond this by offering what they’re calling “MINI Yours Customized,” which is a service that allows customers to specialize their trim—side scuttles on the exterior, door sills, IP panels—that are ordered via a website, then fabricated in facilities in Germany that are using equipment from Hewlett-Packard Inc., Carbon Inc. and EOS GmbH.

SideScuttle

Install your very own side scuttle.

(You might be thinking: “Isn’t MINI a British brand?” Yes, but it is owned by BMW Group, which created strategic partnerships to execute the parts production for MINI Yours Customized.)

One of the reasons cited for why they’re launching now has nothing to do with time requirements. Rather, they have determined that the materials are sufficiently high quality to meet the MINI specs, as is the laser scribing of the door sills that are part of the program.

According to MINI, all of the products that can be obtained through the program “are in conformity with the same high standards of form, functionality and safety as the components supplied from the factory in the original MINI range of accessories.”

Consider the side scuttle, the trim that is located on the top of the front quarter panels near the front edges of the front doors. The components are printed and the rims are painted in a customer-selected color, Aspen White matte, Chili Red matte, Jet Black matte, Melting Silver matte, or White Silver matte. Another customer selection is the surface finish and pattern on the face of the scuttles—including names, as the name of the driver for one side of the vehicle and the primary passenger on the other.

(In case you’re wondering: the parts are clipped in place, so they can be changed if needed, as in selling the car or breaking up with one’s significant other.)

PassSideTrim

Why not have the London skyline over the glove box?

The special parts can be installed by the customer or by a MINI dealer.

Although time is not called out as being an inhibitor, it is worth noting: “The individually designed products will be delivered within just a few weeks.”

Weeks.

So that whole “manufacturing” aspect is still, evidently, off in the future.