Additive Manufacturing Processes Gaining Ground

Added: Over a year ago by BMW Group

The use of 3D-printed parts in BMW Group production processes is increasing rapidly. In the last ten years alone, more than a million components produced using additive manufacturing have been successfully installed. This number will continue to grow as production expands and 3D-built parts become more widely used in series production.

3D printing opens the door to new innovations: The Additive Manufacturing Centre dedicated to this purpose, which forms part of the BMW Group Research and Innovation Centre in Munich, is likely to turn out more than 200,000 components this year – an increase of 42% over the previous year. Additive manufacturing is used more and more widely in automotive series production, where it can boost the flexibility and quality of processes considerably. In 2010, an additively-manufactured water pump impeller was fitted in a German Touring Car Masters vehicle for the first time. Since then, many different parts have been used in series production for all BMW Group brands.

But that is by no means all: The BMW Group also uses additive manufacturing in many other areas – individualisation, for instance. In the case of the DriveNow carsharing fleet, MINI fans picked a name for the fleet’s MINIs via social media. The names chosen were then engraved in the MINIs’ side indicator using 3D printing. Individual customer wishes can also be fulfilled quickly and easily in this way. In the MINI online store, the MINI Yours Customised product initiative allows MINI owners to have selected components personalised and individually designed. This service earned the German Innovation Award Gold.

The BMW Group engages in targeted technology scouting and evaluates new procedures. The new BMW i8 Roadster already includes two innovations enabled by 3D printing. The first is the car’s window guiderail. This element was developed by specialists from the BMW Group Research and Innovation Centre in just five days and the additively-manufactured rail integrated into series production of the vehicle in Leipzig. In collaboration with the Hewlett-Packard Company, the BMW Group further developed its own multi-jet fusion technology for this purpose. As a result, up to 100 window guiderails can now be produced by a 3D printer within 24 hours.

The second installed component is an additively-manufactured aluminium-alloy part mounted on the roof of the BMW i8 Roadster. The holder for the vehicle’s soft top attachment is especially innovative: Thanks to the special aluminium alloy, the holder is much more stable and durable than the plastic parts usually used – and weighs a lot less. The jury of the Altair Enlighten Award was particularly impressed by this solution and recognised the BMW Group for its lightweight innovation in the modules field.

The BMW Group views additive manufacturing processes as an important production method of the future. Not just because the procedure is especially innovative and customisable, but also because it allows many heavy vehicle parts to be replaced by lightweight solutions. The BMW Group is working hard to develop new innovations and applications –because when it comes to the mobility of the future, new solutions are needed in all areas, including the production process.