Volkswagen, Siemens and HP Partnership to 3D Print Car Parts
German car manufacturer Volkswagen has announced plans to use binder jet (BJT) 3D printing to manufacture car components at its main plant in Wolfsburg, Germany, supposedly becoming the first car maker to apply the Additive Manufacturing technology in its production method.
Volkswagen is pushing ahead with the utilization of advanced 3D printers in car production and entering a partnership with Siemens while expanding on the already existing one with HP. Of course, it is no coincidence that both these companies are the ones entering the collaboration with Volkswagen. Normally, Volkswagen has considered the production of large volumes of end-use components to not be cost-effective enough, but it now believes that the technology coming out of this collaboration will make production-line use of 3D printing economically sustainable.
While HP is providing the necessary printing hardware for this process, Siemens is responsible for the software. The goal is to lower the expenses of the manufacturing procedure while boosting productivity. Volkswagen has not been playing around to achieve this groundbreaking advance. In fact, they have spent an amount in the mid-double-digit million euro range over the past five years just for this goal.
Additionally, the initial partnership between Volkswagen and Siemens is part of a bigger and more comprehensive strategic partnership of the two corporations within the area of digital production platforms.
“I’m pleased that we have a strong and innovative partner in Siemens so we can start working on the car production processes of the future,” said Christian Vollmer, member of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen Brand responsible for Production and Logistics. “The example of 3D printing shows that this transformation harbors many diverse opportunities for innovation.”
History of 3D Printing at Volkswagen
Volkswagen has been using Additive Manufacturing for 25 years. The original goal was to reduce costs and at the same time accelerate vehicle development. Currently, the firm has 13 printing units at their Wolfsburg plant, leveraging several Additive Manufacturing printing processes to manufacture metal and plastic components for prototyping and spare parts. Printed metal components consist of radiators, support elements, intake manifolds, and brackets. Typical plastic part examples for prototypes are bumpers, instrument panels, door cladding, and even center consoles. More than one million components have been manufactured in those past 25 years.
Volkswagen has already used 3D printing for their brands Audi and Porsche. This encompassed the light-weighting of components, including water connectors for inside the engine of the Audi W12. Furthermore, as a positive result of using FDM desktop printers, Volkswagen’s factory in Portugal saw an annual saving of $160,000 in typical production costs.
In 2018, the company opened its doors to its advanced Additive Manufacturing centre. It contains an array of the most modern 3D metal manufacturing machines. The centre is located in Wolfsburg, where it is employed to develop intricate automotive parts using 3D printing, while also training the employees in the utilization of the technology. Here, Volkswagen first began examining the capability of binder jet 3D printing for tool and prototype assembly, and later on for end-use parts.
A year later, the company established its Innovation and Engineering Center California (IECC). Together with GKN and HP, 10,000 metal parts had been manufactured on the HP Metal Jet 3D printing system. This achievement was essential for Volkswagen’s ongoing relationship with HP to integrate the firm’s structural 3D-printed pieces into its next generation of automobiles.
Binder Jet 3D Printing at Volkswagen
“Despite the ongoing challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, we’re continuing to work on innovation,” said Vollmer. “Together with our partners, we aim to make 3D printing even more efficient in the years ahead and suitable for production-line use.”
Starting from this summer, the three businesses aim to launch a collaborative expert team at Volkswagen’s advanced 3D printing centre. For the first time ever, binder jetting, the newest method, is being used to create parts at the firm’s Wolfsburg plant. In comparison to conventional 3D printing, the binder jetting method uses adhesive, instead of a laser to build a component layer by layer from metallic powder. The finished parts created by binder jetting weigh much less. In fact, they weigh 50% less than those made from sheet steel.
Through their individual partnerships, the companies will not only take a closer look at how 3D printing can boost the digital transformation of production at Volkswagen, but also will investigate which components can be produced economically and quickly with binder jetting. To utilize binder jetting to its full potential, Volkswagen is making use of the HP printers and has brought in Siemens to deliver specialized software to work on the positioning of parts in the build chamber, with the goal of increasing the number of parts in it. This technique, also known as “nesting”, makes it possible to produce double the original amount of components per manufacture session.
“We are very proud to support Volkswagen with our innovative 3D printing solutions,” said Cedrik Neike, member of the Managing Board of Siemens AG and CEO of Siemens Digital Industries. “Our automation and software solutions are leading in industrial production applications. Using this technology, Volkswagen will be able to develop and produce components faster, more flexibly, and using fewer resources.”
The Future of Car Part Production
The first components made using the metal binder jet process have been sent to Volkswagen’s facility in Osnabrück and are currently there for certification. They were components for the A pillar of the T-Roc convertible. Until now the large-scale creation of 3D printed parts has not proven itself to be cost-effective. However, Volkswagen had previously already conducted successful crash tests on 3D-printed metal vehicle components. Now, this knowledge comes in handy, as the integration of binder jetting changes the production costs and makes the creation of certain parts economically viable.
At the moment Volkswagen is the only car maker using this 3D printing technology in the production process. By 2025, the goal is to produce up to 100,000 3D printed automotive components in its Wolfsburg plant each year. As for the future, and as work with Siemens and HP goes on, Volkswagen predicts there to be various more printed production parts along the line.
“A digital transformation in the auto industry is underway and Volkswagen is leading the way with strategic vision and bold action,” added Ramon Pastor, Global Head and GM of 3D Metals, HP Inc. “We are committed to delivering the capabilities our customers need to accelerate the design and production of high-quality final parts with breakthrough economics. Together with Volkswagen and partners like Siemens, we are standing up the factories of the future.”
Can you imagine yourself, sitting in a car with 3D-printed parts? Or maybe one day in a car that is completely 3D printed? Tell us in the comments below what you think about the advances in the automotive field.