BMW Creates Fully Automated Production Lines for 3D Printed Auto Parts –

Three years ago, 12 companies and research institutes working at the intersection of the German automotive and additive manufacturing (AM) industries formed a consortium with the aim of carrying out a project called IDAM: the industrialization and digitization of additive manufacturing. The goal of the project – led by BMW Group and funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) – was nothing less than “to revolutionize metal 3D printing in standard car production “.

BMW announced on Tuesday May 24 that the project has been successfully implemented. In this case, success means that two fully automated 3D-printed automotive production lines are now ready for operation: one at the BMW Group AM campus in Oberschleißheim, on the outskirts of Munich, and the other at the factory. of the GKN Metallurgy division in Bonn, Switzerland, owned by the British multinational automotive and aerospace components company, GKN Ltd.

Consortium leader and BMW Group project manager for IDAM, Felix Haeckel, commented in a press release: “From day one of the project, you could feel the team spirit between the partners. Learning from each other, developing innovative solutions together and making the most of the individual strengths of each partner – this was the key to the success of the industrialization and digitalization of additive manufacturing.

Using the systems consisting of laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) platforms, combined with AI and robotics, which it has developed, the IDAM consortium can print 50,000 serial parts per year, as well as than 10,000 new and individual pieces. Opened in 2020, the BMW campus in Oberschleißheim has 50 3D printers for metal and plastic. In addition to investing in various 3D printing startups, including Desktop Metal and Xometry, the company also uses HP MultiJet Fusion (MJF) and EOS machines, among other brands.

BMW has been using 3D printing in its production lines for about 30 years, and before announcing the 15 million euro AM campus in 2019, the company had already produced 1,000,000 3D printed parts. Considering that 3D printing for the automotive industry in general is moving towards mass production, the IDAM consortium is obviously at the forefront of automation in automotive manufacturing. Given that it’s so far ahead of such a critical industry-wide change, BMW is perfectly positioned to continue to meet its financial expectations amid concerns about the recession and supply chain outages. ‘supply.

According to BMW, the company ships “7,000 containers with a total of 31 million components” everydaytime. In that sense, then, 60,000 printed parts, across all of BMW’s operations, doesn’t seem like a lot. On the other hand, from the perspective of the AM industry, the IDAM project sends a very clear message as to what scale-up will really look like – the main objective of the phase that the industry is coming to enter. It is unlikely in the near future that any automotive company will 3D print the majority or even a significant minority of new parts for any model. What is It is likely that over the next five to ten years, BMW could set up an AM campus in each of the 15 countries where it operates. It is also likely that an increasing number of critical parts, with long delivery times and unreliable supply chains, will be produced with 3D printing.

Image courtesy of SmarTech Analysis.

So the success of this one project could realistically mean hundreds of machine orders over the next decade from BMW alone, not to mention the cost of service contracts, software and materials. Also, assuming the project is successful, it will likely have an additional positive impact on the AM industry, in the form of an emulation of what BMW is doing by other automakers. This would mirror projections from SmarTech Analysis, which determined in the release of its latest Market Data Services report, that 3D printing for the automotive industry will grow at a rate of 19.1% from 2021 to 2030. All of this is starting to hint at how much the industry will depend, if it continues to grow successfully, on the long-term successful increase in the role of AM in automotive supply chains.

Images courtesy of BMW Press

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