Volkswagen is pressing ahead with the use of 3D printers in car production including components used in the A-pillar of the T-Roc convertible.
The newest process, known as binder jetting, is being used to manufacture components at the company’s main plant in Wolfsburg, Germany. While 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.
“Despite the ongoing challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, we’re continuing to work on innovation,” said Christian Vollmer, member of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen Brand responsible for Production and Logistics. “Together with our partners, we aim to make 3D printing even more efficient in the years ahead and suitable for production-line use.”
Cedrik Neike, member of the Managing Board of Siemens AG and CEO Digital Industries, added: “We are very proud to support Volkswagen with our innovative 3D printing solutions. Our automation and software solutions are leading in industrial production applications. Using this technology, Volkswagen will be able to develop and produce components faster, more flexibly and using fewer resources.”
Volkswagen has invested many millions of euros over the past five years, 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 optimising 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.
By 2025, the aim is to produce up to 100,000 components by 3D printing in Wolfsburg each year. The first components, the A-pillar of the T-Roc convertible, have gone to Osnabrück for certification.
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.
This article courtesy of Russell Thrall III, publisher CollisionWeek. Check out their website at: www.collisionweek.com.