Metallic 3D printing on the road to automotive series production

Metallic 3D printing on the road to automotive series production

Technology News |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

The aim of the IDAM research project is the industrialization and digitization of additive manufacturing (AM) for automotive series processes. IDAM will make it possible to replace cost-intensive and time-consuming processes such as the production of moulds and to meet the demand for product individualization without additional effort.

Within the project, the implementation of metallic 3D printing takes place at two locations: the Additive Manufacturing Center of the BMW Group in Munich, and the Bonn plant of the automotive supplier GKN Powder Metallurgy. There, the IDAM team qualifies the AM technology for the specific requirements in common parts production as well as individual and spare parts production on the basis of concrete components. The targeted quantities highlight the signal character of the joint project. In the future, the AM production lines should make it possible to produce at least 50,000 components per year in common parts production and over 10,000 individual and spare parts under the highest quality and cost pressure.

Two modular and almost fully automated AM production lines will be set up at the two sites. They cover the entire process from digital product generation to physical component production and post-processing. Individual modules can be adapted to the different production requirements by the modular structure of the line and, if necessary, replaced. In addition, it is possible to flexibly control and utilize individual process steps. By taking a holistic view of the automotive production line, the project participants want to reduce the manual share of activities along the process chain from currently around 35% to less than 5%. In addition, the unit costs of 3D-printed metal components are to be more than halved.

Additive identical part series production at BMW. (C) BMW Group

In the conception, provision and networking of the modules for the AM production line, the expertise of the SMEs involved within the project consortium will come to the fore. Among other things, they will automate the interfaces between the individual process steps or develop a series-capable and modular production line for metallic 3D printing within the framework of the project. The other modular components, such as powder handling, process monitoring and automated post-processing, will also be developed by this group of participants. The research institutions take on tasks in the field of process control, digital twinning and preventive quality improvement. The cooperation of the large industrial companies makes it possible to use these linked modules in the AM production lines under real conditions and on a large scale. In addition, industrial standards can be defined and industry-relevant quality features can be worked out. Only through this interdisciplinary cooperation is it possible in the IDAM project to take a holistic view of metallic 3D printing for automotive series processes and to establish it sustainably in production.

According to the consortium, initial research results are expected at the beginning of 2022.

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