3D printing will also be a central focus of the facility. Unsurprising, considering Ford has been an early champion of 3D printing — having bought the third 3D printer ever made in  1988.

Today, the company now extensively uses 3D printing as part of its product development and is exploring ways to integrate the technology into its production lines. The Advanced Manufacturing Center will play a key role, already housing 23 industrial 3D printers.

3D printing is important to Ford for several reasons. First, speed to market can be cut down significantly via the technology. Product development cycles for some auto makers have been roughly halved relative to the not so distant past. Printing parts also reduces the transportation and logistics costs related to suppliers. Lastly, 3D printing has the potential to open the floodgates of customization in an industry that has long been geared toward mass, standardized production.

3D printing at Ford is not new. Over the past 5 years, the company has made over 700,000 parts using the technology, saving an estimated $200 million. Put differently, Ford touches “a significant portion of the vehicle with 3D printing now,” according to an expert in Ford’s manufacturing division.

With 25 years’ industry experience, Harold Sears is the Technical Leader of Additive Manufacturing Technologies at Ford. We recently spoke with Sears to learn more about how the company is innovating 3D printing for the automotive industry.