BMW Creates Fully Automated Production Lines for 3D Printed Car Parts – | Car Plazas

Three years ago, 12 companies and research institutions working at the interface of the German automotive industry and the additive manufacturing (AM) industry formed a consortium to carry out the IDAM project: Industrialization and digitization of additive manufacturing. The aim of the project, led by the BMW Group and funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), was nothing less than “to revolutionize metal 3D printing in the series production of cars”.

On Tuesday, May 24, BMW announced that the project had been successfully implemented. Success in this case is that two fully automated 3D printed automotive production lines are now operational: one at the BMW Group AM Campus in Oberschleißheim, a suburb of Munich, and the other at the GKN Metallurgy Division plant in Bonn, Switzerland of the in UK-based multinational automotive and aerospace supplier GKN Ltd.

The consortium leader and IDAM project manager of the BMW Group, Felix Haeckel, commented in a press release: “The team spirit of the partners could be felt from the first day of the project. Learning from each other, developing innovative solutions together and making optimal use of the individual strengths of the partners – these were the keys to the successful industrialization and digitization of additive manufacturing.”

By using systems from Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF) platforms in combination with AI and robotics that it has developed, the IDAM consortium can print 50,000 serial parts as well as 10,000 new and single parts per year. The BMW campus in Oberschleißheim, which opened in 2020, has 50 3D printers for metal and plastic. In addition to investing in a variety of 3D printing startups, including Desktop Metal and Xometry, the company also uses HP MultiJet Fusion (MJF) and EOS machines, among others.

BMW has been using 3D printing on its production lines for around 30 years, and before the company announced the €15 million 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 serial production, the IDAM consortium is obviously at the forefront of automation in automotive manufacturing. Given that BMW is so ahead of the curve on such a critical industry-wide shift, BMW is perfectly positioned to continue to meet its financial expectations amid recession concerns and supply chain meltdowns.

According to BMW, the company sends “7,000 containers with a total of 31 million components”.Day. In that sense, 60,000 printed parts doesn’t seem like much in the context of BMW’s overall business. On the other hand, from the perspective of the AM industry, the IDAM project gives a very clear message of what “scale-up” – the main goal of the phase the industry has just entered – will really look like. It’s unlikely that any car company will be 3D printing a majority, or even a significant minority, of the new parts for any model any time soon. What is It’s likely that BMW could set up an AM campus in each of the 15 countries in which it operates within the next five to 10 years. It is equally likely that more and more critical Parts with long lead times and unreliable supply chains are being 3D printed.

Image courtesy of SmarTech Analysis.

So, realistically, the success of this one project over the next decade could mean hundreds of machine orders from BMW alone, not to mention the cost of service contracts, software and materials. Assuming the project is successful, it is likely to have further positive impacts on the AM sector in the form of emulating what BMW is doing by other automakers. This would echo forecasts by SmarTech Analysis, which in the release of its latest market data service report found that 3D printing for the auto industry will grow at a rate of 19.1 percent from 2021 to 2030. All of this points to how dependent the industry will be on the successful long-term strengthening of AM’s role in automotive supply chains if it is to continue to successfully scale.

Images courtesy of BMW Press

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