Audi ramps up additive manufacturing for hot tool forming

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3D model of a printed Audi tooling part. (Image: Audi)

Automotive firm Audi now relies entirely on additive manufacturing for selected tool segments for hot forming at its Metal 3D Printing Centre in Ingolstadt, Germany.

The firm uses additive manufacturing (AM) for 12 segments of four tools for hot forming, with further plans for significantly more segments to be printed this way.

The tool segments, printed with EOS’ M 400 system, can measure up to 400mm in length and weigh as much as 120kg. The size and complexity of the tool segments mean that construction times of up to 20 days are not uncommon.

3D printing makes it possible to create highly complex cooling channels configured for the specific component within the tool segments. This provides contoured, more-even cooling, making it possible to shorten cycle times with outstanding quality – a critical point for series production of the actual vehicle component. 

Several hundred thousand parts have already been produced using the 3D-printed tools and installed in selected models, including the Audi A4. The company plans to do the same for future electric vehicles.

Audi uses the EOS M 400 in its Metal 3D Printing Centre to producing tooling segments. (Image: Audi)

‘From initial qualification by EOS to internal further development and refinement of the entire process chain through to standardisation of a new production method, we are now reaping the fruits of years of development within Audi’s production organisation,’ said Matthias Herker, technical project manager at the Audi Metal 3D Printing Centre. ‘Whenever conventional manufacturing methods reach their limit, we use additive manufacturing – which lets us meet quality standards and comply with production times.’

Markus Glasser, senior vice president EMEA at EOS, added: ‘The latest examples show that 3D printing has become an established part of operating materials production at Audi. We’re especially proud that the tool segments made using AM are created exclusively using an industrial 3D printer from EOS. Audi is a partner we can work with to continue to drive the use of AM in automotive production – a key industry for us.’

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