First look: (A tiny, 3D-printed part of the) Ford Mustang Shelby GT500
Ford’s next big Mustang, the Shelby GT500, is getting ready to take the auto show stage ... which means the automaker is also figuring out how to manufacture and build it. To help make that process easier, Ford reached into its bag of relatively new tricks and will use 3D-printed -- also known as additive-manufactured -- parts on the upcoming Mustang.
Well, we should say part, and you’re looking at it in the picture above. Obviously not a high-stress piece, this 3D-printed bracket is part of the GT500’s brake system, and it looks like it won't do much more than hold a hose in the right place. That might not sound impressive, especially when paired with a relatively low-volume model of Mustang, but Ford’s venture into 3D-printed production won’t stop here.
Ford plans to also use 3D-printed plastics to help ease the plight of aging cars, too. Not only can Ford use its bevy of 3D printers to manufacture new, complex brake parts, it can also manufacture replacement parts for existing cars. This will reduce the need to tool up aging molds when its warehouse stock runs short.
Of course, Ford’s branching out into places besides additive engineering to make the manufacturing process easier and cheaper. Ford has moved into the virtual world to help develop workstations for factories, or production lines, that aren’t yet up and running with the help of HTC Vive headsets and virtual reality software. Ford also can share ideas with engineers halfway across the globe with Microsoft HaloLens AR headsets.
This small piece of the Shelby GT500 might not seem like more than a chunk of plastic when you’re servicing the brakes on your future Mustang, but it’s an important part of the next wave of manufacturing that should only make cars better. We'll see the rest of the Shelby GT500 soon -- the Detroit auto show is just around the corner.