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Additive Manufacturing Project Introduces Metallic 3D Printing to Automotive Series Production

Editor: Alexander Stark

Metallic 3D printing is on track for automotive series production. In the future, at least 50,000 parts per year are to be produced in series production and more than 10,000 individual and spare parts. This goal is supported by the IDAM joint project.

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Additive series production at the BMW Group.
Additive series production at the BMW Group.
(Source: BMW Group)

The twelve project partners of the IDAM project, consisting of SMEs, large companies and research institutions, want to turn metallic 3D printing into an industrialized and highly automated series process for the automotive industry. The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen and the Chair for Digital Additive Production DAP of RWTH Aachen University are supporting the project through their many years of experience in the field of additive manufacturing technologies.


Demand for Product Individualization without Additional Costs

The goal of IDAM is to promote the “Industrialization and Digitization of Additive Manufacturing (AM) for Automotive Series Processes”. In this project, twelve project partners are laying an important cornerstone to sustainably strengthen Germany's technological pioneering role and the country itself as a manufacturing location. By integrating metallic 3D printing into the conventional production lines of the automotive industry, IDAM will enable them to replace cost and time-consuming processes, such as the production of molds, and to meet the desire for product customization at no extra cost.

Additive Production of at Least 50,000 Serial Parts per Year

Metallic 3D printing is being implemented at two locations: the BMW Group's Additive Manufacturing Center in Munich and automotive supplier GKN Powder Metallurgy’s factory of in Bonn. There, the IDAM team is qualifying the AM technology for the specific requirements to produce identical parts as well as individual and spare parts on the basis of specific components. The targeted quantities speak for the signal the joint project wants to set. In the future, it should be possible to produce at least 50,000 components per year in mass production and over 10,000 individual and spare parts – at the highest quality and under extreme cost pressure – with the AM production lines.

Cutting the Costs for 3D-Printed Metal Parts in Halve

Two modular and almost completely automated AM production lines are being set up in Bonn and Munich. They cover the entire process, from digital to physical component manufacturing all the way to 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, their process steps can be controlled and utilized flexibly. By taking an integrated view of the automotive production line into account, the project partners plan on reducing the manual share of activities along the process chain from currently around 35 % to less than 5 %. Furthermore, the unit costs of the 3D-printed metal components are to be more than halved.

SMEs Develop Series-Capable and Modular Production Systems

Above all, the expertise of the SMEs comes to the fore in the conception, provision and networking of the modules for the AM production line within the project consortium. Among other things, they automate the interfaces between the individual process steps or develop a series-capable and modular production system for metallic 3D printing as part of the project.

Industrial Standards and Industry-Relevant Quality Features

The other modular process components, such as powder handling, monitoring and automated post-processing, are also being developed by the SMEs. The research institutions are assuming tasks for process control, the digital twin and the preventive increase in quality, among others. Since large industrial companies are involved, these linked modules can be used in the AM production lines under real conditions and on a large scale. Industrial standards can also be defined, and industry-relevant quality features can be worked out. Only through this interdisciplinary cooperation does the IDAM project make it possible to holistically examine metallic 3D printing for automotive series processes and to establish it sustainably in production.

This article was first published by konstruktionspraxis.

Original by Juliana Pfeiffer / Translation by Alexander Stark

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