Additive manufacturing to be established for automotive series production

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A new collaborative project will transfer metal 3D printing into an industrialised and highly automated series process in the automotive industry for the first time.

Last month the IDAM project (Industrialization and Digitization of Additive Manufacturing for Automotive Series Processes) held its kick-off meeting in Munich, Germany. The project, coordinated by BMW Group and funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), will run for approximately three years and intends to pave the way for additive manufacturing to enter automotive series production.

The potential for using additive manufacturing in series production was a main talking point at the International Laser Technology Congress, AKL, in Aachen last year.

The project will see two modular and almost completely automated AM production lines implemented in two automotive industry environments – BMW Group's Additive Manufacturing Center in Munich, and automotive supplier GKN Powder Metallurgy’s factory in Bonn – both for the mass-production of identical parts and for the production of individual and spare parts.

The production lines will cover the entire AM process, from digital to physical component manufacturing all the way to post-processing.

The twelve project partners (listed below), consisting of SMEs, large companies and research institutions, strive for the production lines to ultimately be able to mass-produce at least 50,000 components per year, in addition to producing over 10,000 individual and spare parts, at the highest quality and under extreme cost pressure.

Last month the IDAM project held its kick-off meeting in Munich, Germany. (Image: BMW Group)

Project partners

  • BMW Group
  • Aconity GmbH, Herzogenrath
  • Concept Reply GmbH, Munich
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT, Aachen
  • GKN Powder Metallurgy, Radevormwald
  • Myrenne GmbH, Roetgen
  • Intec GmbH – Ingenieurbüro für Automatisierungstechnik, Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler
  • Kinexon Industries GmbH, Munich
  • Chair for Digital Additive Production DAP, RWTH Aachen, Aachen
  • Technical University of Munich, Chair of Metal Forming and Casting, Munich
  • Schmitz Spezialmaschinenbau GmbH, Rheinbreitbach
  • Volkmann GmbH, Soest

By integrating metallic 3D printing into the conventional production lines of the automotive industry, the partners will enable current expensive and time-consuming processes, such as the production of moulds, to be replaced, in addition to enabling the ability to customise products at no extra cost.

The modular format of the production lines enables individual modules to be adapted to different production requirements, or replaced if necessary. In addition, the process steps of the modules can be controlled and utilised flexibly.

BMW's i8 Roadster was the first series-production vehicle to contain an additvely manufactured part - the bracket pictured above. (Image: Fraunhofer ILT, Aachen/ Omer Seven)

By taking an integrated view of the automotive production line into account, the project partners plan on reducing the manual share of activities along the process chain from currently around 35 per cent to less than 5 per cent. In addition, the unit costs of 3D-printed metal components should be more than halved, according to the partners.

The SME partners of the project will design, produce and connect the modules for the new AM production lines. They will also take over the automation of the interfaces between the individual process steps, and develop other process components such as the powder handling, monitoring and automated post-processing.

The research institution partners are assuming tasks for process control, the digital twin and the preventive increase in quality, among others.

The inclusion of large industrial partners is what enables the linked modules to be used in AM production lines under real conditions and on a large scale. In addition, the inclusion of such partners will enable industrial standards to be set and industry-relevant quality characteristics elaborated.

Top image: BMW's i8 Roadster contains an additively manufactured bracket that is both stiffer and lighter than similar conventionally manufactured components. (Image: Fraunhofer ILT, Aachen/ Melanie Conrad-Franzen)

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