Cars, robots and 3D printers: Ford is combining all three of these cool toys into one high-tech car manufacturing process. Called Ford Freeform Fabrication Technology (F3T), it may pave the way for more innovative car designs and even let drivers choose their own custom car designs.
F3T uses computer aided design (CAD) files, just like 3D printing technologies. But unlike additive manufacturing processes that build up material like plastic or metal, the F3T machine presses flat sheet metal into three-dimensional car parts.
To accomplish this, Ford engineers use a computer program that translates their CAD files into a series of instructions, called “tool paths,” that can be interpreted by the robot controlling the F3T machine.