3-D printing has the potential to revolutionize the auto industry, and American automaker Ford will be one of the first to test the waters. On Monday, the company announced that it is testing 3-D printing for large-scale parts with Stratasys’s commercial-grade Infinite Build 3-D printer.
The project will determine whether Ford will be able to use 3-D printing to create auto parts in low volumes -- ultimately driving down costs and allowing customers to purchase made-to-order pieces. Typically, producing auto parts requires the use of specific, expensive molds to build certain components, but because these molds are so costly to create, it has never made sense for manufacturers to build them for single or small-batch use (unless the customer is willing to cover the costs).
In addition to costs, 3-D printing could also create auto parts from lightweight materials, in turn increasing fuel efficiency and being more environmentally friendly. “Ford estimates that a 3-D printed spoiler could be less than half the weight of the equivalent made from a metal casting,” TechCrunch reports.
If the testing goes smoothly, Ford could benefit in a number of ways, including offering upgrade options and niche vehicle lines, boosting race car manufacturing, building inexpensive prototypes and more.
Ahead of the New York Auto Show, the luxury automaker announced that it’s piloting a new service called Lincoln Chauffeur. Currently available only in Miami, it allows owners of Lincoln vehicles to hail drivers to chauffeur them around.
Owners may not want to drive themselves for a number of reasons: They may want to avoid looking for parking or paying steep fees to leave their car at the airport during a trip. They may want their car returned to their home after their driver drops them off so someone else in their household can use it. They may even need a designated driver service and request that a Lincoln driver retrieve them and their car after an evening of drinking, according to Autoblog.
It’s a solution for Lincoln owners who don’t want to allow their high-end vehicle to sit in their garages when it’s not convenient for them to drive and who don’t want to settle for an unfashionable, inexclusive cab, Uber or Lyft.
The services Lincoln Chauffeur will provide won’t be limited to driving, however. The drivers will also be on call to run errands for users, such as pumping gas, picking up kids and buying groceries. They may even become personal assistants over time, as satisfied users will be able to request the same driver repeatedly.
San Diego Lincoln owners will get to try the service next, and other cities will follow later this year. New Lincoln buyers will get eight free hours of Lincoln Chauffeur, currently valued at $30 an hour.
For those nervous about trusting a stranger with their keys, Lincoln has said that it will thoroughly vet all of its drivers. And unlike other companies that provide rides on-demand, Lincoln’s drivers will be employees, not independent contractors, providing an additional layer of liability for the company.