Digital Manufacturing for Automotive Product Development

Conquer ever-shortening development cycles for traditional, electric, and autonomous vehicles with rapid prototyping and low-volume production


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The past 18 months have been an uncertain time for the automotive industry, but there are signs of growth as the world returns to some semblance of normality. You can ride the wave of regrowth with Protolabs’ quick-turn digital manufacturing and automated manufacturability feedback. Designers and engineers can mitigate design and cost risks while developing a more responsive supply chain to better react to driver and passenger demand for more customised vehicles.

The automotive industry is evolving fast and industry trends like autonomous driving, on-board connectivity, and hybrid/electric vehicles continue to drive the innovation race. Agility-minded automotive companies are turning to Protolabs to accelerate new product development and get to market faster. With quick-turn digital manufacturing and automated manufacturability feedback, designers and engineers can mitigate design and cost risks while developing a more responsive supply chain to better react to driver and passenger demand for more customised vehicles.


Automotive component manufacturer - automotive report

Reducing Component Weight for Automotive Applications

Automotive manufacturers, and their suppliers, will be fighting a continuous uphill battle to design and produce lighter, more efficient automotive components for decades to come.

European and worldwide regulatory, market-driven, redesign initiatives are creating a perfect storm of product development activity for automotive suppliers.

Why Protolabs for Automotive Development?

Rapid Prototyping

Mitigate design risk through rapid iteration and prototyping in production materials without sacrificing development speed.

Supply Chain Flexibility

Get on-demand support for line-down emergencies, part recalls, or other supply chain disturbances in your production plants by using automated quoting, rapid tooling, and low-volume production parts.

Quality Inspections

Validate part geometry with several quality documentation options. Detailed Measurement Report, PPAP, and FAI reporting are available.

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Mass Customisation

Implement low-volume manufacturing to enable more diverse and customised automotive features that are tailored to modern drivers.

Tooling and Fixtures

Improve manufacturing processes to create greater automation and streamlined component assembly with custom fixturing.

Mahle case study - Phase A validation parts for vacuum casting

Protolabs rapidly machines 'Phase A' validation parts for vacuum casting

Protolabs recently supported Mahle with the production of 40 highly complex aluminium parts, designed ultimately for vacuum casting, as quickly as possible. Working with the manufacturer, Protolabs utilised the power of its manufacturing analysis, expert advice and production speed, to meet the strict deadline.

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The renderings show top and bottom views of ZF's intricate clock spring assembly.

A Front Seat on Driving Innovation with ZF

Steering column control modules now integrate an expanding variety of functions into the steering wheel, offering drivers a host of functions for both safety and convenience. Providing connectivity between all of those helpful buttons and switches and the functions they control—from the turn signals and wipers to cruise control and even heating the steering wheel itself—is the job of the clock spring, a plastic disc about the size of a hockey puck that sits hidden under the steering wheel within the steering column control module. See how digital manufacturing helped reduce product development time for global tech company ZF FriedrichshafenREAD ZF SUCCESS STORY

What Materials Work Best for Automotive Applications?

red thermoplastic automotive parts manufactured by protolabs

Thermoplastics. Choose from hundreds of thermoplastics including PEEK, acetal, or supply your own material. Maintain branding with custom colourant for qualified projects.

nylon 3d printed automotive fan part produced by protolabs

Nylons. 3D print functional prototypes in several nylon materials available through selective laser sintering and Multi Jet Fusion. Glass-filled nylons improve mechanical properties when needed.

liquid silicone rubber fluorosilicone automotive part manufactured by protolabs

Liquid Silicone Rubber. Silicone rubber materials such as fuel-resistant fluorosilicone can be used for gaskets, seals, and tubing. An optical clarity silicone rubber is also available for lens and lighting applications.

DMLS automotive part

Aluminum. This all-purpose metal used for light-weighting provides excellent strength-to-weight ratio and can be machined or 3D printed.


Our digital manufacturing capabilities accelerate the development of a range of metal and plastic automotive components. A few of common automotive applications include:

  • Assembly line components
  • Fixtures
  • Enclosures and housings
  • Plastic dash components
  • Aftermarket parts
  • Armatures
  • Lenses and lighting features
  • Support for on-board consumer electronics
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Free mouldability analysis within hours

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