It's no surprise that engineers at Ford make use of high-power commercial 3D printers; the technology has been in use at major industrial design operations for, well, decades. What is surprising is the revelation that Ford intends to "put the smaller Makerbot replicators at every engineer’s desk in the coming months", according to a report at GigaOM.
This is not a change but rather an increase of an existing approach. Many Ford engineers already have MakerBot Thing-O-Matics at their desk, but what do they do with them? The video below explains:
The car manufacturer evidently wishes to increase the productivity and more importantly the creativity of their industrial designers by providing direct access to making equipment. While it's not likely we'll see a sudden change in Ford design, this move will likely give Ford's designers a leap ahead in creative potential.
Why MakerBots? With many different 3D printing manufacturers to choose from, Ford chose MakerBot. We suspect it's because the "prosumer level" Replicator 2 is a very capable machine available at a reasonable price per unit. We suspect Ford employs thousands of engineers, so price is obviously a prime concern. For MakerBot, this is probably their largest single order. Consider 1,000 machines would cost approximately USD$2,000,000 - and Ford could have many more than that. It's a massive boost to MakerBot's business.
Via GigaOM (Hat tip to James)