- Comprehensive in-house expertise to advance additive manufacturing technology
The BMW Group has, yesterday, officially opened its new Additive Manufacturing Campus to bring together production of prototype and series parts under one roof, along with research into new 3D printing technologies, and associate training for the global rollout of toolless production.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Milan Nedeljković, BMW AG Board Member for Production, said, “Additive manufacturing is already an integral part of our worldwide production system today, and established in our digitalisation strategy. In the future, new technologies of this kind will shorten production times even further and allow us to benefit even more fully from the potential of toolless manufacturing.”
Daniel Schäfer, Senior Vice President for Production Integration and Pilot Plant at the BMW Group, added, “Our goal is to industrialise 3D printing methods more and more for automotive production, and to implement new automation concepts in the process chain. This will allow us to streamline component manufacturing for series production and speed up development. At the same time, we are collaborating with vehicle development, component production, purchasing and the supplier network, as well as various other areas of the company to systematically integrate the technology and utilise it effectively.”
Additive Manufacturing Campus
The €15 million Additive Manufacturing Campus will allow the BMW Group to develop its position as technology leader in the utilisation of additive manufacturing in the automotive industry.
It currently employs up to 80 associates and operates about 50 industrial systems that work with metals and plastics. Another 50 systems are in operation at production sites around the world.
Decades of In-House Expertise and Collaborations
According to Jens Ertel, Director of the Additive Manufacturing Campus, “Over the last 30 years or so, the BMW Group has developed comprehensive skills, which we’ll continue to enhance on our new campus, which has the latest machines and technologies. In addition, we develop and design components that are faster to produce than by conventional means, offer flexibility in terms of their form, and are also more functional. We are working hard to mature additive manufacturing fully and benefit from it as far as possible throughout the product life-cycle, from the first vehicle concept through to production, after-sales and its use in classic vehicles.”
According to the BMW group, access to the latest technologies is gained through long-standing partnerships with leading manufacturers and universities, and by successfully scouting for industry newcomers.
This strategy has worked well for BMW over the decades of its operations. Through BMW i Ventures – the venture capital arm of the BMW Group, it has managed to forge strong partnerships with Carbon, a Silicon Valley-based company and manufacturer of the revolutionary DLS (Digital Light Synthesis) technology. It has also invested in Desktop Metal, a start-up specialising in additive manufacturing of metal components and developing innovative, highly productive manufacturing procedures. It also collaborated with Xometry, one of the world’s leading platform for on-demand manufacturing. The latest partnership being with German start-up ELISE, which allows engineers to produce component DNA containing all the technical requirements for the part, from load requirements and manufacturing restrictions to costs and potential optimisation parameters.
Additive Manufacturing in Research and Pre-Development
The pre-development unit of the Additive Manufacturing Campus optimises new technologies and materials for comprehensive use across the company. The main focus is on automating process chains that have previously required large amounts of manual work, to make 3D printing more economical and viable for use on an industrial scale over the longer term.
Jens Ertel explains, “To roll these technologies out successfully, we need well-trained colleagues across the network who fully understand their advantages and features. To use them, designers will need to adopt a new way of thinking and an entirely new approach as they devise the upcoming components. 3D printing allows almost any shape to be produced, paving the way for new designs and functions. Nowadays, there are countless components that can only be manufactured additively.”
The BMW Group first started the additive manufacturing of prototype parts back in 1991, for concept vehicles. By 2010, plastic-and metal-based processes were being rolled out, initially in smaller series, to produce items such as the additively manufactured water pump wheel in the DTM race cars. Further series production applications followed from 2012 on, with a range of components for the Rolls-Royce Phantom, BMW i8 Roadster (2017) and MINI John Cooper Works GP (2020), which contains no less than four 3D printed components as standard.
The Additive Manufacturing Campus is also making a significant contribution to series production of plastic parts.
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