This is a link to a article about a new "stamping" method Ford developed to form sheet metal. Sounds like once it makes it to market you could form any piece of sheet metal you wanted with just programming, no dies! Could enable making replacement parts for older vehicles very cheap.
In the scheme of things fabbing a one of a kind part in a couple of days without the need for dies is very cheap for someone like Ford for prototyping, but tying up a very expensive machine (I doubt the machine is cheap!) for a couple days is still going to be an expensive part to produce, and then add retail markup on top, you are probably looking at a few thousand dollar fender, and it may be that a fender is still too complex a shape to reproduce this way.
True, it will probably be expensive but. Look how fast 3D printers have come down in price and even at several hundred thousand dollars it would be equivalent to a couple sets of dies and the hydraulic press. So a large parts supplier invests a half million to get set up, after he scans or otherwise gets specs for parts he could be producing parts for all different makes both old and newer. You could produce small batches of parts and then produce more as needed all without large investments in dies and the storage space for them.
Very cool. I have a customer who is a Fanac robot dealer and I do a lot of work with them. I sent him the link but he's probably already seen it. Maybe sometime in the near future I'll be working with him on a system like this.
Interesting idea, but very restricted in what it can form. It's a two axis forming tool, basically much like a tiny english wheel, and like the english wheel it can only stretch, it cannot shrink or gather to form a part that curves or folds back on itself, basically it can only make relatively shallow bowl like forms. You could simulate it's capabilities by clamping a sheet of HD aluminum foil between two open frames then use a ball point pen to slowly emboss a shape into the foil. No matter how slowly you work eventually you will work harden the metal to the point where it stops being able to be formed or stretch it so thin it will tear. Metalsmiths ave been using a similar process to embellish sheet metal in everything from jewelry to armor to metal clad church doors to silverware since early history. When done by hand the metal is adhered face down to the surface of a bowl of pitch, and various blunt punches are used to selectively drive the metal into the pitch in a process called repousse. ( rep poo say) http://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j...72988048972596