The Main AC Unit of the Tesla Model Y Utilizes an FDM 3D Printed Part in order to compensate for a mold limitation and ensure production is not stalled.
Munro and Associates has been breaking down one of the first Model Y's during quarantine. They recently released a video of the initial breakdown of the HVAC system of the Model Y. The main unit is composed of multiple large Injection molded pieces. But as it turns out there is also a 3D Printed component as part of the assembly.
The Reason for the 3D Printed part is unclear. Though it is likely to ensure production continues uninterupted. The HVAC housing is an exceptionally large molded part. The cost and time of of manufacturing are huge, even by injection molding standards. It would not be unsurprising if the mold for this part required 6-8 weeks to produce and cost as much as 250-500,000 dollars. That is a huge production delay, especially for the frenetic pace that Tesla Operates at.
The 3D Printed part was likely added in order to create an efficient manufacturing process until the next iteration of the mold was complete. Tesla is able to drill a hole precisely in the molded part and then fuse in the 3D Printed part. This is a quick and perfectly viable solution to keep production running until the port hole is integrated into the new HVAC mold design.
Since Tesla is only producing about 1000 Model Y's per week is is not difficult for the 3D printing to keep pace. Though it is clear that the part is printed at a very low resolution. And it is also likely that the 3D Printed part is cropped directly from the Version 2 mold design, because its design is not optimized for 3D Printing at all and fits in with the current molded piece like a chunk of a puzzle.
If Tesla were to outsource production of these types of parts to a service like Slant 3D they could be produced much more quickly and with much better properties than the part shown in the video. Slant 3D produces 10,000's of plastic parts every week for all types of markets and with engineering grade materials.
But it is great to see that FDM printed parts are proving thier viability in such great automobiles as the Tesla Model Y. We hope to see more 3D Printed parts in the future, as not as solutions to a design flaw, but as the ultimate end part.
If you have a need for 3D Printed parts as an alternative to injection molding, or to rapidly address supply issues. Please reach out with a 3D model of your part.