The BMW Group is to invest more than £8.6m (€10m) in a new Additive Manufacturing Campus, near Munich, to continue developing its expertise in this field of work.
“Our new Additive Manufacturing Campus will concentrate the full spectrum of the BMW Group’s 3D printing expertise at a single location.
“This will allow us to test new technologies early on and continue developing our pioneering role,” said Udo Hänle, head of Production Integration and Pilot Plant.
Jens Ertel, head of the BMW Group’s Additive Manufacturing Centre and the future campus director, said: “Our new facility will be a major milestone in additive manufacturing at the BMW Group.
“The team there will evaluate new and existing technologies in both plastics and metals printing and develop them to series maturity.
“Our goal is to provide the optimum technology and process chain, be it for individual components, small production runs or even large-scale manufacturing.”
Making new tech available for the network
Within the BMW Group production network, the new Additive Manufacturing Campus will work in much the same way as a pilot plant, advancing the latest technologies in this field and making them available for use within the network.
Much of the work carried out there will focus on parts manufacturing for prototype construction, series production and customised solutions.
The Additive Manufacturing Campus will also act as an interdisciplinary training and project area, for instance for development engineers.
Located in an existing building with a footprint of over 6,000 square metres, it will accommodate up to 80 associates and over 30 industrial systems for metals and plastics. It is scheduled to go on stream in early 2019.
Series production for customised components
Additive manufacturing is an integral part of the BMW Group production system and harbours significant potential for series production. Most recently it has been used to generate parts for the BMW i8 Roadster.
Jens Ertel said: “With the BMW i8 Roadster, the BMW Group became the first carmaker to 3D-print a production run of several thousand metal parts. The component concerned is a fixture in the tonneau cover for the soft-top.
“Made of aluminium alloy, the printed item is lighter than the normal injection-moulded equivalent but significantly more rigid. Its ‘bionic’ geometry, inspired by forms found in nature, was optimised for 3D printing purposes.
Additive manufacturing is also gaining importance for customised components. The new MINI Yours Customised programme, for example, allows customers to design certain components themselves.
Indicator inlays and dashboard trim strips, for instance, can be 3D-printed to their precise specifications.
The BMW Group expects that, with time, it will become possible to produce components directly where they are ultimately needed – an idea that harbours tremendous potential.
Jens Ertel explained: “The 3D printers that are currently operating across our production network represent a first step towards local part production.
“We are already using additive manufacturing to make prototype components on location in Spartanburg (US), Shenyang (China) and Rayong (Thailand).
“Going forward, we could well imagine integrating it more fully into local production structures to allow small production runs, country-specific editions and customisable components – provided it represents a profitable solution.”
According to BMW, this would make additive manufacturing a useful addition to existing production technologies.
Digital production methods for manufacturing
Thanks to its tremendous scope for the rapid manufacture of quality parts of almost any geometry, additive manufacturing has been in use in the construction of concept cars at the BMW Group since 1991.
Components are realised purely using digital data, eliminating the need for classic tools such as press tools and injection moulds.
At present, the technology is most commonly used for small production runs of customised and often highly complex components.
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