Honda is another manufacturer from the automotive industry that has recognized the potential of additive technologies. Already in 2015, Honda engineers used PolyJet technology to create accessories for their cars and motorcycles. While earlier, additive technologies were used to produce peripheral parts, now it was decided to use 3D printing to optimize the key element of the car, i.e. the crankshaft.

The need for optimization resulted from the desire to reduce the negative impact of cars on the natural environment by reducing the weight of one of the most important elements of the vehicle. The research and development department turned to Autodesk, a specialist in intelligent design, to reduce the weight of the crankshaft and improve its economy.

The quality of the crankshaft is an important issue that ensures safe use of the vehicle. To be able to work flawlessly, its design must be resistant to wear when performing repeated, cyclic movements. The current method of crankshaft production is almost 60 years old and since its development it has not been significantly changed, applying rather cosmetic corrections.

Hirosumi Todaka, a machine designer from Honda’s research and development department, explains that crankshafts must meet a number of functional requirements – the proper operation of the vehicle depends largely on its resistance to elevated pressure or balancing. Due to this fact, when other components of the cars were subjected to optimization, the crankshaft survived for almost decades in an unchanged version. Now Honda specialists have undertaken to improve it, and their goal was to design an element at least 30 percent lighter than commercially available models.

The design of the improved crankshaft depended on manufacturing technology. The design team, deciding to use 3D printing technology, had to change their habits and look at the model from a different perspective. Here, the experience and knowledge of specialists from Autodesk, who are pioneers in the field of design adapted to the possibilities of 3D printing, proved necessary.

The first design already met the requirements of the technical team regarding the mechanical properties of the shaft. The whole was designed using a “generative design” solution that allows you to obtain a model with given properties and geometry imitating an organic look. However, this was only the beginning – Honda engineers were surprised by the effects and decided to strengthen cooperation to create an even more optimal solution.

As a result, an element was created that was half the weight of its original version. The shaft is in the necessary tests phase, and the data obtained is forwarded to Autodesk specialists and used for further optimization and improvement. The goal is to create a solution as reliable as crankshafts produced by traditional methods with significantly reduced weight.


Magdalena Przychodniak
Editor-in-Chief of the 3D Printing Center. A biomedical engineer following the latest reports on bioprinting and 3D printing in modern medicine.

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