BMW:Industrial-scale 3D printing continues to advance at BMW Group
Munich. The BMW Group is taking the next step in the
systematic integration of additive manufacturing. The aim is to scale
additive manufacturing up to industrial levels and firmly establish it
in various areas – primarily vehicle development and production – to
positive economic effect. The BMW Group benefits fully from the
advantages of the technology, which offers fast availability of
components, flexible component design, and the ability to manufacture
parts without elaborate tools.
Daniel Schäfer, Senior Vice President for Production Integration and
Pilot Plant at the BMW Group: “Processes such as additive
manufacturing help us to speed up development cycles and get our
vehicles to series maturity faster. 3D printing also shortens the
production times of components while meeting rigorous quality requirements.”
3D-printed components for small series production
Since the middle of this year, the BMW Group has been additively
manufacturing metal and polymer parts for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. They
are made at various points in the process chain and different sites
across the global production network.
The components concerned are for the vehicle body and passenger cell,
and are highly functional and rigid. The process for manufacturing
them was developed and prepared for application in automotive
production by the BMW Group, at the company’s own Additive
Manufacturing Campus, which also produces polymer parts by multi-jet
fusion and selective laser sintering.
At BMW Group Plant Landshut metal parts are currently made by laser
beam melting. In production, the metal 3D-printed components are
fitted to car bodies in an almost entirely automated process. Polymer
components from the Additive Manufacturing Campus and the metal
substrate for the trim panel are fitted in the automobiles.
Component development through generative design
The degree to which additive manufacturing can be used in parts
production was ascertained in the early stages of the vehicle
development. Engineers as well as production and materials experts
examined hundreds of components, focusing throughout on the economic
benefits of the new technology, and on the weight and geometry
advantages compared with conventionally manufactured parts. Components
were selected for 3D printing based on a series of criteria and
requirements, which were defined and translated into “machine
language” with the help of data scientists. This marked the start of a
new AI system enabling the BMW Group to identify faster and earlier on
which components could potentially be produced by 3D printing.
Parts that had previously been virtually impossible to realise are
engineered by generative design, which uses computer algorithms for
rapid component development. Together, experts and computers create
parts that make the best possible use of materials in production. Many
potential applications are only possible at all thanks to generative
design, and 3D printing technologies are particularly suitable for
creating their complex forms and structures, which were previously
impossible to produce with conventional tools.
For the BMW Group, generative design resulted in topology-optimised
solutions, where form and function have been significantly enhanced.
The components are around 50 percent lighter than comparable
conventional components and make the best possible use of the space
available, as is the case with the damper for the rear lid.
Additive Manufacturing Campus
Since June the BMW Group has pooled its entire technology expertise
at the Additive Manufacturing Campus just outside Munich. The new
campus also provides training for associates from around the world to
use the new technologies, and is the home of prototype component
production. At the moment the centre of excellence has up to 80
associates and already operates about 50 metal and polymer processing
systems. A further 50-plus systems are operating at other production
sites around the world.