Munich. At the BMW Group, the use of 3D-printed components is on the rise. Over the last decade alone, the companyproduced a million parts by this innovative method, and this yearoutput from the BMW Group Additive Manufacturing Center is expected toreach over 200,000 components — a 42 percent increase on last year’s total.
Dr. Jens Ertel, Director of the BMW Group Additive ManufacturingCenter: “The use of components made by additive manufacturing inseries production of vehicles is increasing particularly strongly atthe moment. We are following the development and application ofadvanced these manufacturing methods very closely indeed, partlythrough longstanding cooperations with leading manufacturers in thefield. At the same time, we are engaging in targeted technologyscouting and evaluating innovative production systems.”
Recently the BMW Group fitted its one-millionth 3D-printed componentin series production: a window guide rail for the BMW i8 Roadster.Thanks to the work of specialists at the Additive ManufacturingCenter, the rail took just five days to develop and was integratedinto series production in Leipzig shortly after. It is found in thedoor of the BMW i8 Roadster and allows the window to operate smoothly.The component is manufactured by HP Multi Jet Fusion Technology, ahigh-speed method enhanced by the BMW Group in conjunction with HP andnow in use in the series production of vehicles for the very firsttime. It can produce up to 100 window guide rails in 24 hours.
BMW i8 Roadster now incorporates two additively manufacturedcomponents
The window guide rail is the second 3D-printed component in the BMWi8 Roadster. The first was the fixture for the soft-top attachment,which is also produced at the Additive Manufacturing Center in Munich.Made of aluminium alloy, the metal component weighs less than theinjection-moulded plastic part that is normally used but is stillconsiderably stiffer. Its importance has already been recognised withan Altair Enlighten Award in the category for Modules this year. Theaccolade honours lightweight innovations in the field of subsystemsand components.
Additive manufacturing fulfils customers’ wishes
Meanwhile, the personalisation of vehicles and components bycustomers themselves is also becoming more and more important. Withthe MINI Yours Customised product initiative, customers can designselected components themselves, such as indicator inlays and dashboardtrim strips. They create their designs at the online shop (www.yours-customised.mini),and the parts are then 3D-printed to specification.
Advanced and customer-focused in equal measure, MINI Yours Customisedwas honoured with a special accolade: the gold German Innovation Awardpresented by a foundation called the German Design Council (‘Rat für Formgebung’).
The BMW Group is constantly exploring ways of using additivemanufacturing to the customer’s advantage.
Additive manufacturing for series production
For the BMW Group, additive manufacturing will be a key futureproduction method. The company first began using plastic andmetal-based processes back in 2010, initially for the production ofsmaller series of components, such as the water pump pulley for DTMvehicles. Further series applications followed in 2012, with variouslaser-sintered parts for the Rolls-Royce Phantom. Since last year, thefixtures for fibre optic guides in the Rolls-Royce Dawn have also been3D-printed, and the luxury brand today incorporates a total of ten3D-printed components into its products.
The BMW Group has been quick to capitalise on its experience,identifying potential uses for additive manufacturing technologiesearly on.