INGOLSTADT, Germany—Engineers at Audi AG are using full-color, multimaterial additive manufacturing to produce plastic parts. The technology will help reduce prototyping lead times by up to 50 percent.

Before a new vehicle goes into production, the Audi Pre-Series Center builds physical models and prototypes so that engineers can thoroughly evaluate designs. Traditionally, molding and milling were used to create door handles, radiator grills, wheel covers and other components.

However, this created some delay for parts such as tail light housings.

“These individual color parts must be assembled, [because] they cannot be produced in one-piece,” says Tim Spiering, head of the Audi Plastics 3D Printing Center. “This time-intensive process increases lead times for design verification and subsequently delays time-to-market.”

To streamline the process, Spiering and his colleagues are now using a J750 printer from Stratasys. With more than 500,000 color combinations available, the engineers can print transparent parts in multiple colors and textures.

“We need prototypes to have exact part geometries, no distortion and extremely high quality, as well as true-to-part color and transparency,” says Spiering. “This is essential for getting design concepts approved for production.”