With a total investment worth over €10 million, automotive giant BMW will open an industrial scale 3D printing campus in Munich, Germany in early 2019.
The BMW Group is investing more than €10 million in a new Additive Manufacturing Campus. Located in Oberschleissheim, just north of Munich, the facility will ensure the carmaker continues developing its expertise in industrial 3D printing.
Within the BMW Group production network, the new Additive Manufacturing Campus will foster the latest technologies in much the same way as a “pilot plant” and make them available for use within the network.
Much of the work carried out will focus on parts manufacturing for prototype construction, series production and customized solutions. The Additive Manufacturing Campus will also act as an interdisciplinary training and project area.
“Our new Additive Manufacturing Campus will concentrate the full spectrum of the BMW Group’s 3D printing expertise at a single location,” says Udo Hänle, Head of Production Integration and Pilot Plant at BMW.
“This will allow us to test new technologies early on and continue developing our pioneering role.”
Located in an existing building with a footprint of over 6,000 square metres, the new centre will accommodate up to 80 associates and over 30 industrial systems for metals and plastics. It’s scheduled to open in Spring 2019.
First Carmaker to 3D Print Production Run of Several Thousand Metal Parts
3D printing is already an integral part of the BMW Group production system. Most recently it was leveraged to generate parts for the BMW i8 Roadster.
“With the BMW i8 Roadster, the BMW Group became the first carmaker to 3D print a production run of several thousand metal parts,” says Jens Ertel, Head of the BMW Group’s Additive Manufacturing Center and the future campus director.
The component is a fixture in the tonneau cover for the soft-top. Made of aluminum alloy, the printed item is lighter than the injection-moulded equivalent, but significantly stiffer. Its ‘bionic’ geometry, inspired by forms found in nature, was optimized for 3D printing.
Additive manufacturing is also gaining traction for custom componentry. The new MINI Yours customization programme allows customers to design certain components themselves, for example. Items like indicator inlays and dashboard trim strips can be 3D printed to their precise specifications.
The carmaker expects that, with time, it will become possible to produce components directly where they are ultimately needed. According to the company, this idea has tremendous potential to supplant existing production technologies.
“The 3D printers that are currently operating across our production network represent a first step towards local part production,” continues Ertel.
“We are already using additive manufacturing to make prototype components on location in Spartanburg (US), Shenyang (China) and Rayong (Thailand). Going forward, we could well imagine integrating it more fully into local production structures to allow small production runs, country-specific editions and customizable components – provided it represents a profitable solution.”
BMW Group Investing Heavily in Additive Manufacturing
Elsewhere, the BMW Group has also been busy investing in promising 3D printing start-ups.
In September 2016, the carmaker’s venture capital arm, BMW i Ventures, invested in the Silicon Valley-based company Carbon, whose DLS (digital light synthesis) printing technology was a breakthrough in the production of parts with high-quality surfaces.
The technique allows significantly larger areas to be processed more rapidly than would otherwise be possible with conventional selective 3D printing. Carbon and the BMW Group have been partners since 2015.
Another investment in additive manufacturing came in February 2017, this time in the start-up Desktop Metal.
Desktop Metal specializes in the additive manufacturing of metal components and has developed highly productive and innovative methodologies. It now works closely with the Additive Manufacturing Centre at the BMW Group.
Source: Press Release