BMW gets behind 3D metal printing wheel
Maximizing production, efficiency and design of luxury autos Metal Tech News – December 16, 2020
Last updated 12/15/2020 at 3:43pm
BMW Group has gotten behind the wheel of the quickly emerging 3D printing technology to hasten vehicle parts development and production to maximize manufacturing capabilities for its automobile industry.
The Germany-based automotive powerhouse has wasted no effort in shifting the direction of its manufacturing with a systematic integration of additive manufacturing scaled up to industrial levels and to firmly establish it in various areas – primarily vehicle development and production.
"Processes, such as additive manufacturing, help us to speed up development cycles and get our vehicles to series maturity faster," said Daniel Schäfer, senior vice president for production integration and pilot plant at BMW Group. "3D printing also shortens the production times of components while meeting rigorous quality requirements."
Since mid-year, BMW Group has been additively manufacturing metal and polymer parts for its world-renowned Rolls-Royce automobiles, with parts made at various points in the process chain and across different sites in BMW's global production network.
Presently, the components concerned are for the vehicles' body and cabin, which are highly functional and rigid. The process for manufacturing them was developed and prepared at BMW Groups' additive manufacturing campus just outside of Munich, Germany.
Since June, BMW Group has pooled its entire technology expertise at this new facility, which provides training for associates around the world to use the latest additive manufacturing technologies and is home to prototype component production.
The center currently has roughly 80 associates and already operates about 50 metal and polymer processing systems.
Polymer parts are produced at the Munich additive manufacturing campus with multi-jet fusion and selective laser sintering.
The luxury automaker 3D prints metal parts by laser beam melting at its center for innovation and production for the future technologies of lightweight construction and electromobility in Landshut, Germany. These 3D-printed parts are fitted to car bodies in an almost entirely automated process.
BMW Group says the parts selected for 3D printing were based on a series of criteria and requirements which were defined and translated into a machine learning algorithm with the help of the company's own human data scientists. The 3D-printed parts selection process also marked the start of a new artificial intelligence system the automaker is using to help streamline its production methods.
Parts that had previously been considered "virtually impossible" to realize are now being engineered by a generative design, which uses computer algorithms for rapid component development.
BMW Group experts and computers are now putting their figurative and virtual heads together to create parts that make the best possible use of materials in production with most of the potential applications being only possible due to 3D printing technology – maximizing efficiency and design of present and future BMW, Rolls-Royce, and MINI models.