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Volkswagen, HP, GKN: 3D Printing in Series Production

| Author / Editor: Hanne Schweitzer/SP-X, Thomas Günnel / Alexander Stark

Until now, additive manufacturing has been expensive and too slow for series production of car components. Volkswagen, HP and GKN Powder Metallurgy want to change this within the next two to three years.

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In the near future, Volkswagen intends to use vehicle parts made in 3D printers for series production. To this end, VW is now cooperating with printer manufacturer HP and component manufacturer GKN Powder Metallurgy.
( Source: Volkswagen )

In the near future, Volkswagen intends to use vehicle parts made in 3D printers for series production. Printed structural parts are to be integrated into the next generation of vehicles, according to goal announced by the manufacturer. To this end, VW is now cooperating with printer manufacturer HP and component manufacturer GKN Powder Metallurgy. The companies want to develop the metal printing process for series production.

As a first step, design elements could be printed in small series, for example tailgate lettering, special gear knobs or keys with individualized lettering. Volkswagen says it wants to be able to "offer this to customers soon". The two most important driving forces for this process are individualized products and lightweight construction.

As early as next year, GKN Powder Metallurgy and Volkswagen intend to establish a process chain designed for automotive production. The first small (design) components are to be used to further develop the technology so that the first structural components for series production vehicles can be printed in two to three years.

More Efficient Production

According to Volkswagen, the new technology improves productivity by up to fifty times, depending on the component. VW mentions two to three years as the time horizon for the use of parts produced in a 3D printer. According to the manufacturer, however, a complete vehicle will probably not come out of the 3D printer very soon. Above all, large and less complex parts, such as engine hoods, will continue to be produced more cheaply and faster using traditional production processes. But: "Our goal is to integrate printed structural parts into the next generation of vehicles as early as possible. In the long term, we expect a continuous increase in unit numbers, component sizes and technical requirements — right up to football-sized components with an output of more than 100,000 units per year," says Martin Goede, Head of Technology Planning and Development at Volkswagen.

Other automobile manufacturers are also already making use of this technology, albeit so far mainly in small quantities: BMW has used additive manufacturing, for example, for components in DTM cars or to produce reconstructed spare parts for a historic BMW 507. At Porsche, too, the Classic department relies on 3D printing technology to be able to offer spare parts that could otherwise not be produced economically. And Bugatti has the titanium brake caliper for the Chiron super sports car produced with 3D printing technology.

About the Manufacturing Process

The new 3D printing technology using the "HP Metal Jet" process is an additive process in which components are produced in layers using a powder and binding agent. The component is then "baked" into a metallic component in the so-called sintering process. This differs from previous processes in which powder is melted by means of a laser.

This article was first published by MM MaschinenMarkt

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