Additive series production at the BMW Group. (Photo courtesy BMW Group.)
Additive series production at the BMW Group. (Photo courtesy BMW Group.)

GKN Powder Metallurgy and partners have kickstarted a project focused on developing additive manufacturing (AM) for automotive series production.

The project partners, which include Germany-based SMEs, large companies and research institutions, plan to transfer metallic 3D printing into an industrialized and highly automated series process in the automotive industry for the first time. By integrating metallic 3D printing into conventional automotive production lines, the Industrialization and Digitization of Additive Manufacturing (AM) for Automotive Series Processes (IDAM) could enable engineers to replace cost and time-consuming processes, such as the production of molds and customize products at no extra cost.

Metallic 3D printing is being implemented at two locations: the BMW Group's Additive Manufacturing Center in Munich and automotive supplier GKN Powder Metallurgy’s factory of in Bonn where the companies plan in future to produce at least 50,000 components per year in mass production and over 10,000 individual and spare parts with the AM production lines.

Modular construction

The modular and almost completely automated AM production lines reportedly cover the entire process, from digital to physical component manufacturing all the way to post-processing. Individual modules can be adapted to the different production requirements due to the modular construction of the line, as well as replaced. In addition, their process steps can be controlled and utilized flexibly, GKN says. 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% to less than 5%. In addition, the unit costs of 3D-printed metal components could be more than halved.

The project is also being supported by the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen and the Chair for Digital Additive Production DAP of RWTH Aachen University.

This story uses material from GKN, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier.