Volkswagen to Use New 3D Printing Process for Vehicles
Volkswagen 3D PrintingVolkswagen

Volkswagen to Use New 3D Printing Process for Vehicles

Volkswagen is pressing ahead with the use of innovative 3D printers in car production. For the first time, the newest process, known as

Volkswagen is pressing ahead with the use of innovative 3D printers in car production. For the first time, the newest process, known as binder jetting, is being used to manufacture components at the company’s main plant in Wolfsburg, Germany. Whereas conventional 3D printing uses a laser to build a component layer by layer from metallic powder, the binder jetting process uses an adhesive. The resulting metallic component is then heated and shaped. Using the binder jetting component reduces costs and increases productivity – for example, the components weigh only half as much as those made from sheet steel. Volkswagen is currently the only car maker using this 3D printing technology in the production process.

To achieve this innovative advance, Volkswagen has invested an amount in the mid-double-digit million euro range over the past five years. In addition, the company has entered into a software partnership with Siemens and expanded its existing collaboration with printer manufacturer HP Inc. With the first full-scale use of binder jetting, they intend to acquire important experience and learn, for example, which components can be produced economically and quickly in the future or how additive manufacturing can support the digital transformation of production at Volkswagen.

HP is providing the high-tech printers needed and Siemens the special software for additive manufacturing. One key process step that has been worked on jointly by Siemens and VW is optimizing the positioning of components in the build chamber. Known as nesting, this technique makes it possible to produce twice as many parts per print session.

From summer, the three companies intend to establish a joint expert team at the high-tech 3D printing center which opened in Wolfsburg at the end of 2018 and enables the manufacture of complex automotive components using 3D printing. The center also trains employees in the use of these technologies.

By 2025, the aim is to produce up to 100,000 components by 3D printing in Wolfsburg each year. The first components made using the binder jetting process have gone to Osnabrück for certification: components for the A pillar of the T-Roc convertible. These weigh almost 50 percent less than conventional components made from sheet steel. This reduction alone makes the process especially interesting for automotive production applications. Volkswagen has already successfully conducted crash tests on 3D-printed metallic vehicle components. Until now, the production of larger volumes was not cost-effective enough. However, the new technology and the collaboration will now make production-line use economically viable.

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