Making reliable automotive supply possible

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Person holding a connector

Aptiv wanted an innovative supply chain solution for low-volume production for Ford, a leading American automaker. Fast Radius’s additive manufacturing expertise and Carbon®’s industrial-grade 3D printing technology helped Aptiv transition to an entirely new production method while still meeting rigorous quality standards.


Ensuring quality additive production for automotive suppliers

Aptiv is a leading technology provider, delivering safer, greener, more connected solutions that enable the future of mobility. They were responsible for the design and production of a trailer-tow connector cap for Ford Super Duty trucks to protect the electrical connectors from harsh environmental exposure.

To address this challenge, Aptiv wanted to push the boundaries of what’s possible in lower-volume, critical part production for a Ford trailer tow connector cap application and deliver a quality product that met Ford’s expectations for the best possible cost and speedy, flexible production.

The trailer-tow connector cap needed to meet the automotive industry’s standard engineering and quality requirements — specifically, USCAR-2 validation and ISO 9000 certification — to guarantee the protection of the electrical connector against external elements.

With these considerations in mind, Aptiv worked closely with Carbon, a leader in digital manufacturing technology and additive materials development, and Fast Radius, a manufacturing partner with expertise in repeatable, reliable additive production to make this possible.

Their combined efforts led to serial production of the trailer-tow connector cap for the Ford Super Duty trucks using Digital Light Synthesis™ (DLS) technology. Additionally, Aptiv’s additive manufacturing strategy provided a tool-free approach, speeding time-to-market by 20 weeks compared to traditional molding solutions.

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Jerry Rhinehart

Fast Radius and Carbon enabled us to additively manufacture Ford’s trailer-tow connector cap, greatly improving our time to market over traditional injection molding and paving the way for future innovations in our lower-volume part production.

Jerry Rhinehart Additive Manufacturing Technology Manager, Aptiv


Trusted materials, leading technology, and additive expertise

Carbon EPX 82
1. Trusted materials for automotive applications

This project was Aptiv’s first automotive production application to leverage additive polymer technology. The Carbon team worked closely with Aptiv to choose the right material to meet the product’s USCAR and level 3 sealing requirements. After careful evaluation, Carbon EPX 82 was chosen as the material of best-fit to produce the trailer-tow connector cap.

2. Industrial-grade digital manufacturing technology

Carbon DLS technology met Aptiv’s expectations for speedy, reliable, and scalable production. This made Carbon DLS the right method for the project based on the estimated production volume and scale. Once the technology and materials were locked, Aptiv turned its focus to the connector cap’s design, collaborating with Fast Radius and Carbon engineers to optimize for manufacturing.

Baking caps
3. Production optimization and expertise

Printing thousands of parts repeatedly and reliably at scale with additive manufacturing can be a challenge. Fast Radius infused their intricate knowledge of Carbon’s technology to ensure production reliability. They drew on this experience and the insights gained from their proprietary digital thread software to design a build file that optimally positioned the parts on the build plate to account for subtle variances in temperature and light variation.

Object dropped into water
4. Quality management system for additive production

Aptiv conducted an extensive on-site audit process of Fast Radius. This resulted in Fast Radius becoming the first serial-approved external additive manufacturing supplier for Aptiv in the automotive industry. Fast Radius relied on its additive manufacturing expertise and software-backed digital thread capabilities to conduct and pass a Production Part Approval Process (PPAP). For production with Carbon DLS technology, Fast Radius instituted part-specific standard operating procedures across each step of the process and developed a rigorous control plan to ensure ongoing quality.


The collaboration of Carbon and Fast Radius made Aptiv’s innovative solution for Ford possible.


In the Fast Radius Virtual Warehouse


Time to market by 20 weeks


Additive manufacturing of Ford's trailer-tow connector cap


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