CHICAGO/WOLFSBURG: Volkswagen is the first car maker using the latest 3D printing technology in mass production.
The “HP Metal Jet” processes, simplifies and speeds up metallic 3D printing.
The biggest advantage: productivity improves 50 times compared to other 3D printing methods and depending on the component.
The new 3D printing process is an additive process in which parts are produced layer by layer using a powder and binder. 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.
Together with printer maker HP and component maker GKN Powder Metallurgy, Volkswagen is pressing ahead with the development of the technology for mass production. The partners presented the new process for the first time at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago.
A Volkswagen vehicle is made from 6,000 to 8,000 different parts. Previous 3D printing processes can, however, only be used for the special production of individual parts or prototypes.
The additive 3D Metal Jet technology from HP enable the production of a large number of parts using 3D printing for the first time – without having to develop and manufacture the corresponding tools.
This significantly reduces the time required to manufacture parts. As a result, the process is now also interesting for the production of large quantities in a short period of time.
In collaboration with HP and GKN, Volkswagen is further developing the technology so that design elements can be printed in a small series at first.
This will be the prerequisite, to be able to produce individualised design parts such as tailgate lettering, special gear knobs or keys with personalised lettering for customers without a great deal of effort.
“A complete vehicle will probably not be manufactured by a 3D printer any time soon, but the number and size of parts from the 3D printer will increase significantly,” said Volkswagen Technology Planning and Development head Dr Martin Goede.
“Our goal is to integrate printed structural parts into the next generation of vehicles as quickly as possible. In the long term, we expect a continuous increase in unit numbers, part sizes and technical requirements – right up to soccer-size parts of over 100,000 units per year.”